Monday, June 6, 2011

Album Review: Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See

Ask a panel of British people to list their albums of the past decade, and it's a fair bet that Arctic Monkeys' milestone debut Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not would feature in most. It may not have been the most complex or technically proficient disc on offer, but back in 2006, the Sheffield quartet leapt into the hearts of the nation in a manner not seen since the very height of the britpop phase, while the band's frontman, Alex Turner was hailed almost overnight as the voice of his generation. Trends come and go, but that debut LP remains one of the most loved in recent times, and has become imbedded in British culture, be it because of it's relatable tales of suburban life in northern England, or through cringy references from incompetent politicians.

However, ask the thinking fan of the band's most important record and they will most likely answer not with that, but with comparatively unloved third effort Humbug. This isn't down to it being superior in any way, shape or form - few would make that argument - but to it's impact on the band's sound, and it's continuing legacy in their development. Bringing about a total U-turn in a stoner-rock orientated direction, Humbug signaled the maturing of the band, maintaining their relevance on the musical landscape all while expanding their sonic pallet. Sure, it cost them a sizeable proportion of their fanbase, but it was never intended as a fan pleasing record - more a transitional one, and on this follow-up that bold step sees it's first true signs of fruitition.

The darker overtones still remain, but thankfully they've been reigned in somewhat, with Turner finding a more successful balance between tunes and texture. His lauded lyrics also show signs of progression, with even further emphasis on the witty one-liners he has favoured on recent albums which prove entertaining, thought provoking and admirable intelligent all at once. The recently adopted languid delivery has also been brought forward, meaning that his words are clearer and therefore hit harder than ever. It's a rise in stock which inevitably leads to some of his finest gems yet, and contributes towards comfortably their strongest output since that debut album.

It's not all about Turner, though, as each member of the four-piece more than does himself justice on their most instrumentally sound effort yet. As such, the variety on show here exceeds that of the past, with delicate sensitivities just as likely to make an appearance as tangled psychedelia and droning Sabbath-esque riffs. The best moments, however, come when Turner, to quote the title track, "pours his aching heart into a pop song." Two of these moments, "She's Thunderstorms" and "That's Where You're Wrong", bookend the album, while glorious mid-section highlight "Reckless Serenade" runs previously established classics like "Fluorescent Adolescent" and "Cornerstone" close as his best ballad.

Where Suck It And See leaves them with regards to future ventures is unclear, but what it does do is provide sound justification for previous meanderings. To call Humbug a misstep would be harsh, but it was never really much more than an experiment, and although it was an enjoyable outing, the real benefits are wreaked here. It may not quite hold up to their "insurmountable" debut, but it's not a million miles off, and promises much for the future evolution of what is becoming one of Britain's great bands.

You can purcahse the album here.

Track List:

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

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