Suck It and See

by Arctic Monkeys

With their last album Humbug, Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys took a walk on the dark side. Co-producer Josh Homme definitely played his part, and played it well.

For their fourth album the band have roped in James Ford, of Simian fame, to take care of the production. A word the band has supposedly bandied about regarding the overall flavour of this album is ‘vintage’. As it turns out, it kind of sums up what you get perfectly.

boom - Arctic Monkeys Suck it and See album image

The guitar that greets you with opening track ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ certainly has a sixties influence. And when Alex Turner chirps in with his vocals, they have an almost crooner quality to them. It sets their stall out well for the rest of the album.

That sixties groove remains with ‘Black Treacle’, with its fetching drum beat and sliding guitar riffs. It bounces along at a merry old pace, carrying you with it.

The energy levels get ramped right up with ‘Brick by Brick’. It’s a trippy tune with psychedelic tendencies; at one point Alex and the boys slow the track down to an actual stop, before heading off a t breakneck speed.

‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ is a soft mint of a track; it kind of does the job, but soon enough simply melts away. Maybe it’s just someone singing “Shalalala” repeatedly that’s off-putting, despite the fact the Alex manages to precede one of them with the word “fucking”.

The first single released ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ took a few listens pre the album’s release to get to grips with. It didn’t have an immediate wow factor, but has certainly become a grower. Again the drums are more noticeable than usual, with some heavier guitars that may well have been left over from Humbug. They both make a nice bed for some silly lyrics.

‘Library Pictures’ is a fine example of what the band can do best; it’s a busy bee that comes at you with all guns blazing. Again, they pull that trick of slowing it all down to a snail’s pace before cranking it up to a deliciously frantic level once again.

The retro vibe is very much in evidence with ‘All My Own Stunts’. A minor quibble might be that they throw just a little too much at it, with quite a bit going on any given time. It also takes a while for any catchy hook to come along and make itself known. Maybe too long.

Probably the weakest track on the album is ‘Reckless Serenade’. It probably means well, but just doesn’t hit any of the right notes. Thankfully though, being one of the shorter songs on the album, you don’t have to put up with it for long.

It takes a while for ‘Piledriver Waltz’ to get going, but when it does, it makes for quite a pretty noise. Even if it’s on the predictable side. You could easily imagine the video being one of those faux performances on a sixties TV show, like the one Weezer did with ‘Buddy Holly’.

It’s at this point that the album feels like it’s running out of ideas. Despite an impressive title, ‘Love is a Laserquest’ is a dull affair. It’s akin to bumping into someone in the street you really don’t want to stop for, but they keep you there, gassing away with some boring blah,blah,blah. The band really do struggle with anything resembling a ballad.

The album’s title track ‘Suck It and See’ is yet another wafty number. It’s all jangly and no substance.

The guitar work on the final song ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ almost makes it worth hanging around until the end. But the reality is, the album, somewhat disappointingly, goes out on a whimper, not a bang.

With just over half the album – pretty much the first half – making any sort of positive impression, perhaps it was just too much of a stretch to make a ‘vintage’ album. All the good stuff could have easily made a worthwhile EP to anyone’s collection, but as it stands there’s very little to make you sit up and take notice.

It’s easy to appreciate that the Monkeys are pro-actively looking for different sounds, and they should certainly be commended for doing that, but someone should be looking over their shoulder for quality control.

There are some nice ideas on this album, but it won’t go down by any means as ‘vintage’ Arctic Monkeys.

three out of five