Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Suck It And See" by Arctic Monkeys

Suck It And See was released June 7, 2011 on Domino Records.
Arctic Monkeys took the world by storm with the unprecedented overnight success of their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, in 2006, after growing popularity on the internet (specifically Myspace) thrust them into the public consciousness. The band followed up with Favourite Worst Nightmare, which proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the band was more that a mere viral sensation and has since gone double-platinum in the UK. Sadly, it seems as though the Arctic Monkeys have lost their way since then. Suck It And See, which feels like a followup to 2009's lackluster Humbug, is a collection of faux-vintage guitar rock that feels more like an elaborate Alex Turner solo album than a true Arctic Monkeys outing. That being said, I have greatly admired Turner as a songwriter for quite some time and have enjoyed all of his solo output, but when the band's name is attached, music like this just feels wrong. Gone are the punchy melodies and whip-smart social commentaries that made us fall in love with this British quartet in the first place. In their place, we have more traditional oldies radio fare, albeit with a distinctive Britpunk edge (though this edge is often dulled until it's nearly unrecognizable).

Perhaps the most frustrating part about Suck It And See is the fact that it COULD represent an excellent new stylistic direction for the crew if they could just get it together. A few of the album's musical highlights (i.e. "Brick by Brick", "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair") are brilliantly composed and heavy enough to rattle ribcages, but are couple with lyrics that are either nonsensical, bland, or just plain awful. For example, on the aforementioned "Don't Sit Down...", Turner croons. "Bite the lightning and tell me how it tastes, kung-fu fighting on your roller skates. Do the macarena in the devil's lair, just don't sit down 'cause I've moved your chair." Did you just cringe? Because I did when I typed it out. Not to say there are no amazing lyrics this time around; some of the verses on Suck It And See are Alex Turner's absolute best, but when they are the music backing them is humdrum (to see what I mean, check out "Reckless Serenade" or "Love is a Laserquest"). It's as though the band can't put two and two together to give us what we've really come to hear. There are a few numbers that come close to achieving this balance, but the album as a whole seems like a lot of wasted potential and leaves the listener feeling cheated.

I am not, by any means, saying that Suck It And See is a bad album. It's a hell of a lot better than Humbug, and the standout moments are exceptional. Songs like "Love is a Laserquest" and "All My Own Stunts" beg for repeat listenings, and the last track on the album is nothing short of extraordinary. I just wish that it were able to come together into a cohesive package like an Arctic Monkeys album ought to be. It does, however, fill me with hope for the next album. Perhaps the Monkeys are just growing into a new style, but until they settle into it, they'll just leave us wanting more. Still, the album is worth a listen, and fans of Turner's solo work will feel right at home.

Rating: 6.6
Standout Tracks:  Love is a Laserquest, All My Own Stunts, That's Where You're Wrong

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