It was a telling moment when Arctic Monkeys were introduced to the world in 2005, largely thanks to this video for “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor,” that front man Alex Turner urged viewers, “Don’t believe the hype.” While the justified buzz surrounding the band reached near deafening levels before they even released their first album, the band itself could not be bothered by it. Rather than taking it as a sign that they were destined to be the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world, a notion that rocketed countless bands on their side of the pond to mediocrity, the band were able to stay humble and keep their focus on making music.
As such, the band has yet to release a bad record. Each album has shown the band’s willingness to evolve and take musical risks, and they have built a solid back catalog filled with some of the best guitar rock songs of the last ten years. Suck It And See, the band’s fourth release, finds them combining many of their strongest qualities into another solid addition to their discography. While the sheer impact of their debut will never be duplicated, the album ably proves that the band are among the best at what they do.
There was plenty of skepticism leading up to the album’s release, and for good reason. The first song to be released to the public, third track “Brick By Brick,” was a somewhat underwhelming tune that featured drummer Matt Helders on vocals. Some felt that the band were simply replicating the desert rock sensibilities from 2009′s Humbug, an album that was nowhere near as immediate as their multi-platinum predecessors. However, it is far from a terrible song, and it makes more sense in context of the album.
This time around, the band has turned to 1960′s English psychedelic music for inspiration, as many of the songs have a sunny vibe to them, but the the heavier tendencies of Humbug turn up in all the right places to add an effective counterbalance, such as on album opener “She’s Thunderstorms” and the excellent Josh Homme featuring “All My Own Stunts.”
This new sound suits Arctic Monkeys well. It would have been foolish to expect the band to keep turning out the lightning fast arrangements and witty observations of English lad life of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare, and they delineate even further this time around both musically and lyrically. The band has slowed things down considerably in most of their songs, with the exception of a section in “Library Pictures,” allowing the band to add an extra layer of sun tinged haziness to their sound. A near perfect example of this, and also one of the album’s best tracks, is “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala,” which sees the band building up to it’s simple and endearing “Shalala” chorus before filling out the arrangement towards the end. Tracks such as “Black Treacle,” Reckless Serenade, and “Piledriver Waltz” follow this kind of approach, and they continue to reveal themselves with repeated listens. “Don’t Sit Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” is just as effective, though in a different way, utilizing an almost instantly catchy guitar riff to serve as the back bone to a heavier arrangement that would have fit right in on Humbug.
Turner’s lyrics, one of the major aspects that have set Arctic Monkeys apart, continue to move away from the kind of scene criticism and youthful concerns with bouncers and dance floors into more cryptic territory. No longer the kind of the verses that one can instantly connect with, many of the songs here demonstrate his way with the phrase in more universal, though increasingly challenging, terms. “Don’t Sit Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” contains lyrics like “Go into business with a grizzly bear” and “Do the macerena in the devil’s lair” that are just as captivating as anything he has written, simply for the amount of interpretation that can be derived from them. Moments like this permeate the album, but Turner can still be straightforward when he wants to be. Many of the love songs on this album, including the title track and the excellent “Love Is A Laserquest,” feature some of his most devastating lyrics. With lines like “I’m sure that you’re still breaking hearts with the efficiency that only youth can harness” and “I poured my aching heart into a pop song, I couldn’t get the hang of poetry,” they are sentiments that anyone who has ever been in love can relate to. Along with his more complex lines, they serve as further evidence as to why Turner has been one of the most consistently good lyricists of the last decade.
There are still a sizable number of people who are pining for Arctic Monkeys to put on their dancing shoes once more and return to the sound that gained them legions of followers in the first place. However, the band knows quite well that a return to form would only stifle their growth as musicians, and Suck It And See benefits all the more for ignoring those pleas. Like Humbug, this album is a grower. With every new listen, the band’s ability to write good songs becomes harder to deny, regardless of the musical or lyrical motif. Suck It And See is simply another great Arctic Monkeys album, and while many of their contemporaries from the Class of 2005 have struggled to replicate the success of their first outings, the Sheffield quartet demonstrate a strong sense of identity that has manifested itself in another great batch of songs.