Arctic Monkeys have pulled out all the stops in an attempt to garner attention for their fourth album Suck It and See; from the needlessly blank album art work to the achingly simple lead single ‘Brick By Brick’, on which lead vocals are sang by drummer Matt Helders. It seems the Monkeys will happily sacrifice any conventions of a good album if they get hype and publicity in return.
To this set of ears though, there seems to be method to this madness. In naming the album Suck It and See, and giving the public no clues as to the content of the record, Alex Turner and co. dare the listener to approach the record with an unexpecting set of ears. If someone picks up the latest Kings of Leon album, they can know safely that they’ll receive a collection of mum-friendly stadium songs, but there are no preconceptions about the Arctics any more. After their first album, they were the champions of indie pop-rock with lovable singles like ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, they retained this crown with their second record Favourite Worst Nightmare. But after a genre-bending curve ball of a record (their third album Humbug) coupled with all their bizarre publicity stunts, no one knows what to expect from the Sheffield four-piece.
So how do they use this unique situation I hear you ask? Well.. given the the askew opinions surrounding the band, it’s difficult not to listen to this album and not immediately think ‘this isn’t nearly as good as their other stuff’. Be you a fan of Humbug or an early material lover, you can’t help think that this new collection of tracks is a bit bland in comparison.
But Suck It and See is an album that definitely requires multiple listens. Having had it playing on a loop for a few days, the intricate narratives of the songs and the exquisite play between bass and guitar riffs become more and more evident. The album opens with ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ – a slow-burning rock and roll anthem with a heart. The eerie opening riff and the Editors-esque epic chord progression create another completely new sound for the Arctics, who seem to regenerate more than Doctor Who. Next we are plummeted into the simplistic chord pattern that opens ‘Black Treacle’ a song packed with catchy lyrics and a cutting post-bridge guitar riff that echoes the ear-splitting guitar effects from The Strokes’ ‘Under The Cover of Darkness’. Both these songs combine to make a memorable opening section to the album; stronger, catchier and simply more likeable than the opening gambit of Humbug.
Suck It and See isn’t just catchy opening tracks though, some of the album’s most pleasant surprises come in the Arctics ability to pen the slow numbers – when Turner croons a slow rendition of ‘been watching cowboy films, on gloomy afternoons’ in the bridge of ‘All My Own Stunts’ the autobiographical emotionality of it all is a stark contrast to his usual character-driven lyrics, a change that he upholds in ‘Love is a Laserquest’ a slow lament for a lost lover, which allows us to see Turner’s lovelorn, emotional side for the first time.
All in all, Suck It and See is a grower. The brilliance of the songs didn’t hit me at first but after repeated listening I would place it among the indie albums of the year alongside What Do You Expect From The Vaccines?‘ and The Wombats’ This Modern Glitch.
Good: Alex Turner’s reputation as a master lyricist is upheld very well, particularly a segment about ‘hanging on by the rings around my eyes’ in ‘Love is a Laserquest’
Bad: Perhaps a stronger lead single would give this record a bigger sales impact, but the album doesn’t seem lacking.