Monday 19 February 2018

Music: Suck it and see by Arctic Monkeys ***


Five years ago, Arctic Monkeys burst on the scene with a justly feted debut album. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was a blistering, hyper-literate offering that established the Sheffield four-piece as the latest in a long line of great British guitar bands.

One UK critic, not known for hyperbolic statements, suggested her world had shifted on its axis after hearing the album. It became the fastest selling UK debut ever.

Since then, the band have been prolific -- Suck it and See is their fourth album -- and frontman Alex Turner has turned his hand to numerous side projects. Yet, the lofty heights reached on that debut have never been matched and their last effort, 2009's Humbug, traded in their very English sound for the sort of hard rock espoused by Queens of the Stone Age (that band's Josh Homme produced Humbug and appears on one of the songs on this album). Suck it and See boasts elements of the cocksure swagger of Whatever People ... and the bluesy attack of Humbug, but the results are mixed.

The songs simply aren't as strong as they were when the Arctics first emerged. The hooks don't line up as thrillingly as before and all too often the scintillating guitar riffs -- take a bow Jamie Cook -- find themselves marooned in half-baked songs or, worse, pub rock territory (Bit by Bit).

It's an album that feels very ordinary on initial acquaintance, although, given time, its nuances come through, especially in tracks like opener She's Thunderstorms, where Turner abandons his snarled, sardonic delivery and croons appealingly. "She's been loop-the-looping around my mind," he sings, tenderly.

As ever, Turner proves his worth as a gifted lyricist -- and even the weaker songs sparkle with lovely wordplay.

How about this from the title track, one of the better songs here: "I poured my aching heart into a pop song/ I couldn't get the hang of poetry/ That's not a skirt, girl, that's a sawn-off shotgun/ And I can only hope you've got it aimed at me."

Burn it: Suck it and See; Piledriver Waltz

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