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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Arctic Monkeys: Suck It And See


1) She's Thunderstorms; 2) Black Treacle; 3) Brick By Brick; 4) The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala; 5) Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair; 6) Library Pictures; 7) All My Own Stunts; 8) Reckless Serenade; 9) Piledriver Waltz; 10) Love Is A Laserquest; 11) Suck It And See; 12) That's Where You're Wrong.

The band's fourth consecutive No. 1 album in the UK continues to prove that The Arctic Mon­keys are a brute force to be reckoned with, but why that is is still anybody's guess. Seems like everybody loves these guys anyway, so why in the hell bother explaining what it is they set out to accomplish in the first place? Just suck it, brother, and you'll see. (The title, by the way, comes from a grafitti in Clockwork Orange, and had the luck of getting censored over with a sticker in some corners of the world, further increasing its popularity).

Musically, it is sort of a «return to roots», or, rather, a dialectical synthesis of the Monkeys' initial style with the artsy-intellectual excesses of Humbug. The songs are generally more immediate and, quantitatively, kick a larger square area of ass than the previous time, but Turner's lyrics and ways of delivering them are, if possible, even more convoluted and «mysterious»: gone for good are the days of focusing on local nighttime hipster culture — the Humbug way of grimly delive­ring pseudo-messages has so pleased the man that he has fixed it permanently.

To be fair, about half of these songs seem to be love confessions, written on a perilous quest for the Ultimate Metaphor — you know, the one that is sitting locked high up in the tower guarded by fire-breathing Clichés and Embarrassments. For the most part, Turner does well on the quest, contributing neat little touches that do not always register upon first listen/consideration. Like, for instance, just how much «neater» is the song title/chorus 'She's Thunderstorms' than 'She's Like A Thunderstorm'? Or how often do you tell your partner that "your love is like a studded leather headlock... you're rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock"?

On the other hand, everyone is engaging in original metaphors these days, stretching the abilities of language as far as they can be stretched (and they still are stretchable). But does it go hand-in-hand with great music? Not exactly. By this time, the general style of the Monkeys is recogni­zable, but their ability to come up with first-rate pop riffs is still close to zero: 'Brick By Brick', a psycho-garage monster oozing «ringing brutality» with mathematical precision, is the only song to have made a lasting musical impression on me. Vocal melodies fare a little better, particularly on the more lyrical numbers like 'She's Thunderstorms' and 'Reckless Serenade', but not enough to wring out tears or anything.

The biggest ongoing problem with the Monkeys is that it is still impossible to understand just how much real bite these guys are threatening. A song like 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair' sounds all mean and lean, with a grumbly metal-pop riff sitting it through and Turner allowing you to "go into business with a grizzly bear" in the snottiest, snarliest tone he can put to­gether, but... is this for real? Who exactly is he flailing his fist at? His girlfriend? His record com­pany? His listeners? The Fifth Earl of Chesterfield? What is really disturbing is that it's not just the lyrics that are confusing, it is the whole way of doing it — all of the time, staying tight in con­trol, cool, calm, and collected. For a musicologist, dissecting Suck It And See may be fun, so close it is to «math-rock» in some of its jagged angles. But everyone else just gets the same old thing — an album that is too well-calculated to attract the genuine spirit of rock'n'roll, yet too bluffy and obscure for obscurity's sake to be revered on a «brainy» level.

'Brick By Brick' is fun, though. Certainly not to be missed in a world where the art of fun keeps getting re­duced to FUN FUN FUN FUN FUN.

Check "Suck It And See" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Suck It And See" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. Wow, you do have some major issue with these guys. Calculated, bluffy. Seriously, George, this review sounds very anti-hype to me.

    Anyway, I thought this album was excellent. Maybe there's something seriously wrong with me now, but suddenly and for once Alex Turner's melodies make perfect sense. And this comes from a big Arctic Monkeys agnostic. "The Hellcat...", for instance, has to be one of the loveliest tunes I've heard all year. Frankly, I couldn't care less about Turner's lyrics. I guess the key is trying not read sincerity into any of modern day songwriters. I certainly wouldn't advise anyone to do so - you'll just end up confused.

  2. No, the lyrics aren't the major issue here; I just talk about them because I find little to talk about in the melody aspect. 'Hellcat' is okay, but didn't contain anything I hadn't thought I'd already heard before (granted, not on Arctic Monkeys albums).
    But I emphatically disagree about modern songwriters and sincerity. If anything, sincerity is coming back, big time (Arcade Fire?), so there is every reason to discriminate (not that "sincerity" automatically makes your music good or vice versa, but it's just a parameter that's still very much actual).

  3. Being a fan of The Arctic Monkeys, and having listened to every song they have done, and having read your blog for a long time .. I must say that I agree with your review of this album. It is an old topic that you've already read many times before; what I really wanted to say is: Thanks for a great review, and for a great job great job as music critic :)

    greetings from Argentina!