Under Review: Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See

Back when the Arctic Monkeys feverishly debuted, a good lot of the attention was devoted to Alex Turner’s frenetic and obsessively detailed tales of lad life. Over-boozed and probably over-shagged, the Arctic Monkeys were the archetypal British group: brash and full of attitude but far smarter than anyone gave them credit for. With subsequent albums and side projects, the Monkeys’ sound hasn’t so much mellowed as it has become more deliberate in its pacing. On Suck It And See, their fourth full-length, Turner remains verbose but is no longer tripping over his own tongue when getting his ideas out. In his early days, Turner ran his mouth because he was a kid who didn’t know how to shut up. Now he’s got something to say and give himself plenty of time and room to say it. Musically, Suck It And See is closest in sound to the Monkeys’ last album, the sludgy Humbug. Frequent collaborator James Ford returns to the producer’s chair, giving the album a slightly more optimistic tone than Josh Homme’s murky thump on Humbug.

If there’s a recurring theme on Suck It And See, it’s the Monkeys’ continued fascination with American music and iconography. For a band that gained such fame for their uniquely British outlook, the Arctic Monkeys appear to dream of being a leather jacket-clad street gang of the late ‘50s. As their days as a full-on rockabilly group remain ahead of them, the Monkeys toy around with quaint wordless choruses (“The Hellcat Spangled Shalala”) and prom night laments (“Reckless Serenade”). “Reckless Serenade” also provides a few of the many ear-catching lyrics that are Suck It And See’s, and indeed the band’s, calling card. “Called up to listen to the voice of reason/And got his answering machine.” “Piledriver Waltz” give us “Your waitress was miserable and so was your food,” and a simple turn of “Home sweet home/Home sweet booby trap” in “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala” is enough to make you overlook the clumsy title.

It’s telling that, while it’s an overall success, there are no mammoth singles to be found on Suck It And See. Even Humbug had “Crying Lightning” and “Cornerstone,” but Turner has finally wrenched control into his own hands. With this album, the Arctic Monkeys have effectively completed their often tumultuous gestation period, not to mention outlasting several of their upstart peers. They remain ever so slightly pranky (evidenced in “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”), but their antics have given way to a surprisingly strong-footed place at the top of the indie rock world.

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~ by E. on June 13, 2011.

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