Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

Arctic Monkeys’ James Ford-produced fourth album is consistent. “Consistency” on the Josh Homme-helmed Humbug at times equaled same-same doldrums; on Suck It And See, the sustained “vibe” contributes to an ambiance and arc that remains interesting as it picks up steam. It’s not all that difficult figuring out why: In this case, less proves more. The band’s traded in Humbug’s layered, at times overburdened and fussy production (e.g. “cue the psychedelic choir!”) for a simpler, lighter sound, one that offers more space to showcase, unfettered, the nuances of Alex Turner & Co’s growth as songwriters. As promised, it’s poppier than its Black Sabbath-influenced predecessor, and we’re told much of it was recorded in live takes with Ford with fewer overdubs. As a result, it feels exceedingly clean, even when it’s loud, making Turner’s dirt and romantic sexiness that much more compelling. You know, contrast.

The 12-song collection establishes an intimate vintage feel with opener “She’s Thunderstorms,” one that lasts to the final notes of excellent closer “That’s Where You’re Wrong” with subtle variation. Nothing flashy here, but it works. The understated feel demands (or suggests) closer listening: Really, you’re going to want to pay attention to Alex Turner’s lyrics — “Now I’m out of place, and I’m not getting any wiser, I feel like the Sundance kid behind the synthesiser,” “Topless models doing semaphore wave their flags as she walks by and get ignored,” “Do you still feel younger than you thought you would by now or, darling, have you started feeling old yet / Don’t worry, I’m sure that you’re still breaking hearts with the efficiency that only youth can harness,” “Our love is like a studded leather headlock / your kiss, it could put creases in the rain / You’re rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock / and those other girls are just postmix lemonade,” “I poured my aching heart into a pop song / I couldn’t get the hang of poetry / That’s not a skirt, girl, that’s a sawed-off shotgun / and I can only hope you’ve got it aimed at me,” etc. — and the way he delivers them. Words become the focus over studio trickery.

So far you’ve heard the Matthew Helders-sung dud “Brick By Brick,” the heavier, more successful first single “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” and the mellower, sexier “Reckless Serenade.” (Suck It And See basically shifts back and forth between the latter two songs’ styles.)

Fans may recognize the prom-ready “Piledriver Waltz” from Turner’s solo Submarine EP. If you saw the guys on Jools Holland you also caught “Library Pictures” and The Hellcat Spangled Shalala” (along with live “Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” and “Reckless Serenade“), so in the end, perhaps not too many surprises, but the playful (but affecting) ballad “Love Is A Laserquest” and swaggering, almost doo-wop-ing title track, and catchy jangle-rock closer “That’s Where You’re Wrong” (with a guitar part somehow reminiscent of vintage New order) are some of the strongest songs on the collection. (For whatever reason, the Monkeys are at their best on this one when they turn down the distortion and amplifiers.)

Beyond any particular track, it’s the approach that’s worth noting and recounting. The guys have always written good songs. By looking back to simpler times with the benefit of greater scope and experience, Suck It And See finds the Arctic Monkeys especially comfortable in their maturing skin, able to deliver the charisma and hooks that intrigued folks in the first place without too many distractions. It’s nothing mind-blowing, no, but it’s a solid collection of smart (alec) rock ’n’ roll, one that gets better with repeat listens.

Suck It And See is out 6/7 via Domino.

Comments (22)
  1. “Suck It And See finds the Arctic Monkeys especially comfortable in their maturing skin”

    probably the most remarkable thing for me when I saw them on their curent tour a couple days ago, was that, though it was the 4th time I’d see them, it was the first time I’d ever seen Alex truly comfortable on stage, and that definitely reflected in the music (not only in how they played their newer songs, but also in how they played stuff from their first two albums).

    I thought the album was fantastic, but yeah, it did take a couple of listens through (that said, ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ and ‘Suck It And See’ where instant favourites. so good!!)

  2. I was worried when I heard Brick by Brick. I did not like it. But with ‘Don’t Sit Down..’ came renewed hope of a return to form. I’m pleased to hear this is a more lyrical LP, too – and one that will really grow on us, as Favourite Worst Nightmare did.

    Thanks for the review. Toby (ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP.COM)

  3. It’s a really good album – and most definitely a grower. I was worried that a lot of people will give it one spin and discard it as fairly conventional without paying attention to both the lyrics and the great nuanced instrumental work… and then I realized that whether or not a band that’s already sold millions of albums breaks another big hit is not something I should be worried about.

  4. Sorry i really liked Brick by Brick

  5. I really do love this album, I’ve already listened to it more than any other release this year.

  6. This is the most instantly likeable Arctic Monkeys album. Treading the water somewhere between their first two albums and the heavier ‘Humbug,’ it is th Monkey’s most consistent and enjoyable album through and through.

  7. The end of the album is really strong.

  8. I was really hesitant to give this album a chance after they pooped out that hideous single “Brick by Brick”, but I have to admit I love this album’s attempt at lighthearted pop. They pretty much nailed it. Really a refreshing and great overall listen.

  9. Really like it, I was afraid they’d go too far towards the mellower songs (like Turner’s solo stuff) but they’ve kept the heavy sound and found a nice balance. The Arctic monkeys have a habit of making endlessly listenable albums, I didn’t think of Humbug as incredible but it was one of the albums I went back to most and am still listening to where other albums have faded.

    • This.

      As this review covers, it all boils down to great songwriting. These boys really are masters of their craft and I can’t wait to hear LP5 and beyond.

  10. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala is such a good song. I really love this album. And the crowd at Summerstage was one of the liveliest crowds I’ve seen at an NYC concert in a long time.

  11. going to see them in detroit tonight… cannot wait

    last 5 tracks are some of my favourite they have ever done, thats where you’re wrong is just brilliant

  12. The title track is an instant classic.

  13. I also didn’t really care for it on first listen, but it’s really really grown on me. Lyrically, I also thought it was way stronger than their last album. Hope give it multiple spins as this is an interesting new direction.

  14. The Arctic Monkeys have yet to make a bad album, yet this can still be considered an improvement over Humbug, so im ecstatic!

  15. I really like this record. It sounds different and refreshing, but you can also hear the echoes of their previous albums in here too. Since their frantic breakthrough in 2006 or so, I think the Arctics have proved themselves more durable than any English NME-hyped band in a long time. I don’t see any serious competition for album of year so far from where I sit. Let me know if I’m forgetting something big.

  16. There’s also a 70′s porn soundtrack comp called suck it and see….I wonder….

  17. OK then he says “pussyfooting” in “That’s Where You’re Wrong” Which is the label name (Pussyfoot) of said record, I’m now convinced there is a connection!

  18. just saw them in detroit. two things: 1) they are so well rehearesed live its unbelievable! 2) That’s Where You’re Wrong is a great great song, crowd was loving all the new stuff. Cant wait to hear library pictures in CD quality

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2