Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See

Not half as fun as we’d like it to be

It’s a given that the Monkeys like to keep people guessing. Take, for example, the order by which they slowly revealed the elements of their fourth and latest album: when ‘Brick By Brick’ was offi cially leaked online, the meaty, beaty groove and lead vocals from drummer Matt Helders suggested a more instrumental approach, shared musical duties, and a distinct infl uence of friend and mentor Josh Homme. Meanwhile, Helders was telling the press their next album would be “more instant…more poppy”. Then, the minimalist (read: lazy) artwork was revealed – were the Monkeys pursuing the sparseness that their new desert rock sound was evoking? First single ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved your Chair’ confused matters, juxtaposing hypnotic crunching riffs and threatening lyrics with a catchy “oooh… yeah yeah yeah” chorus. Just where ‘Suck It And See’ was going to take us was anybody’s guess.

The apparent immediacy is there in the track lengths (averaging three minutes), and the frantic relentlessness with which they bash them out, though it’s Alex Turner’s endearing melodies that stand out most. But poppy? Not really. Homme’s shadow (though James Ford takes full control of production) looms large, casting a portentousness over Turner’s growl and the Monkeys’ force that is as intimidating as it is exciting. This ain’t Top Of The Pops stuff.

Opener ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ is a love song as dark and unsettling as its namesake: “When the heat starts growing horns,” Turner devilishly intones, “she’s thunderstorms”. He’s more lighthearted in ‘Black Treacle’, though, evoking playful imagery: “I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s Cabriolet” and “I feel like the Sundance Kid behind a synthesizer” bring a smile. ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ is lifted by its Sixties-like chorus, but if there’s a complaint about ‘Suck It And See’, it’s that the pace is quite similar through its fi rst half. When Matt Helders’ rumbling toms introduce ‘Library Pictures’ it’s a jolting reminder that Turner’s way with words is a complement to the Monkeys’ storming musical unit – especially when the guitars kick in.

‘Piledriver Waltz’, originally heard as a pared down version on the soundtrack to Richard Ayoade’s movie Submarine, is here bolstered by the adept band, who twist sparkling guitars through rhythms; Turner’s vocals crooning through a cosmic echo – and though it then slows down again for the brilliantly named ‘Love Is A Laserquest’, the title track’s tight pulse and swirling backing vocals once again highlight’s the group’s underlying bond.

“Don’t take it so personally”, we’re implored in closer ‘That’s Where you’re Wrong’, but some might do just that. There’s a distinct lack of hooks on ‘Suck It And See’, and the Monkeys’ celebrated mischievousness is only really apparent in the lyrics – it’s never fully unleashed in the music. ‘Suck It And See’ is not a disappointment, because we’ve learned never to expect the Monkeys’ next move, but it’s not half as fun as we’d like it to be.


Words by CC BAXTER

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