Category Archives: Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The hyperbolic hype was supposed to crush them after their fantastic debut, and the group members were supposed to spiral out of control, too young to deal with the celebrity lifestyle. And what did they do? They grew up on their own terms, deepening their sound for their sophomore release and broadening their range with their third. They stayed out of the tabloids and continued to release quality music, while years and years worth of British “next big thing” bands came and went, arguably none of which burned as brightly as the Arctics did in their prime. In 2006, bandleader Alex Tuner sang “in five years’ time, will it be ‘who the fuck’s Arctic Monkeys?'” And well it’s been five years’ time, and not only is no one asking that question but the Sheffield quartet have arrived with Suck It And See, an album that finds our boys maturing gracefully as ever.
Before its release, Turner claimed that this album would be a balance between their three past albums, and that turns out to be exactly correct. Suck It manages to merge some of the rawness of their debut, the expanded emotional and musical palette of Favourite Worst Nightmare and the muggy murk of Humbug, not just musically but lyrically as well. Turner’s words were often cryptic (and obscured) on Humbug, in sharp contrast to the crisp, precise observations of his early work. Here, he makes a compromise between the two, where abstract impressions are always grounded in the real world. Luckily, his wit is still fully intact, whether he is delivering clever turns of phrase (“Called up to listen to the voice of reason and got the answering machine.”) on “Reckless Serenade” or giving incisive advice (“Don’t take it so personally: You’re not the only one that time has got it in for, honey.”) on “That’s Where You’re Wrong.”
This certainly fits the music, which hovers and floats as much as it stomps and sears. Surely, the return of Worst Nightmare producer James Ford makes this effort cleaner than its predecessor, but the Arctics still retain a bit of Josh Homme’s hazy influence here, particularly in the riff-heavy single “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.” Other rockers like “Brick By Brick” and “Library Pictures” follow suit, with heavy use of distortion and different fuzztones. Still, Suck It creates its identity in its ballads and softer moments, which prove just how much the band’s songcraft has matured. The sighing opener “She’s Thunderstorms” flows gracefully; the lovely “Piledriver Waltz” marries some beautifully sorrowful wordplay to a tentative rhythm, and “Love Is A Laserquest,” despite its silly name, is a thoughtful ballad of yearning and regret. Suck It And See, much like its predecessor, is a grower, unveiling its charms and intelligence with each successive play. And although it’s more consistent than Humbug, none of the songs here particularly feel like Arctics classics, even if many of them are very good, good enough to satisfy any fan and reel many new ones in. Four albums in and yet to release a dud, Arctic Monkeys continue to surprise and defy expectations at every turn, which is the biggest compliment you can give to a group once thought to be a one-shot wonder.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Arctic Monkeys could have been just another band in the legion of British indie acts that followed in the wake of The Strokes and The Libertines, but something ended up being a bit different about them. Following the circulation of a few early demos online, word quickly spread about the Arctic Monkeys through word of mouth. The British press—like they seem to do with a new act every year—quickly declared them the best band in the UK, and a new EP and single release sent hype and expectations for a debut album to levels not seen since Oasis’ Definitely Maybe. And the hype transferred over to sales, with Whatever People Say I Am… becoming (at the time) the fastest selling UK album ever. All this attention gives the impression that Arctic Monkeys’ debut was either vastly eclectic or innovative compared to the music of their peers, which ends up not really being the case. But while the album was overhyped, it still would have garnered attention anyway simply on the grounds that it is very good.
As mentioned before, the Arctics were coming of age during the rise of the Strokes and their British counterpart, the Libertines, the two bands which provided the launch for many a British band of the 2000s. But along with learning a few musical tricks, the band also shares those two bands’ knack for expressing their youthful exuberance. Opener “The View From The Afternoon” frames a day of teenage debauchery in messy, clanging chords; others such as the hit “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” rely just as much on call-and-response vocals as off-kilter, kinetic riffs and grooves. But the Arctics excel above many of their peers because of two reasons: 1) the band has a propulsive power and a natural knack for songwriting that is evident even on the relatively lightweight tracks (the underage drinking tale “Riot Van,” the excellent “You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me”) and 2) Alex Turner’s distinctive lyrics. Throughout the course of the album, Turner observes, celebrates, and mocks the shallow Sheffield nightlife and the youth subcultures that inhabit it, especially in the album’s best track, “A Certain Romance.” Though Turner’s skills don’t quite reach the masterful wit of fellow Sheffield resident Jarvis Cocker, Turner’s style is relatively similar, telling stories and crafting characters from what he sees and hears. The album loses a wee bit of momentum in the middle, but Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not proves that there was much, much more to Arctic Monkeys than just being the first band to become prominent because of the Internet.