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CD REVIEW: "Suck It and See" by Arctic Monkeys

"Suck It and See" by Arctic Monkeys
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By Andrew W.

Dirt Report
, editor

Posted: May 31, 2012

REVIEW:  Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See  (Domino) 2011

Since the release of their 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m
, Sheffield, England’s Arctic Monkeys have managed to live up to their
post-Britpop hype and release several solid albums. With last year’s Suck It and See, the foursome’s latest
offering is clearly a keeper, if only that I couldn’t seem to get it out of my
car’s disc changer. It kept playing and playing, over and over. The songs
quickly lodged themselves in my brain and I simply couldn’t shake ‘em. And I
didn’t want to.

So, while it took awhile for me to catch on to Suck It and See (it’s been out for a
year, after all), talking to my music-savvy cousin on a recent trip to
Washington, D.C., I was impressed by his encounter with Arctic Monkeys singer
Alex Turner at a British-styled pub in Columbia, Maryland while the band was in
town opening up for The Black Keys.

Basically he was at this place – Union Jack’s, I believe
it was called – and he ran into Turner. He was running late and the two
exchanged a few words. And when Turner realized my cousin was leaving, he
seemed disappointed he wasn’t sticking around.

Such is the nature of 21st century
celebrity encounters. A bit of the mystery is gone in these days of instant
media and communication. Running into a “rock star” is almost like running into
an old high school pal. It’s good to see ‘em, but “gotta run.”

So, I had to check out Suck It and See, having been
mildly impressed with the earlier material I had heard like the hit “I Bet You
Look Good On the Dancefloor.”

Tracking down the disc, I was impressed to discover
that the music therein is absolutely terrific. It reminded me of when I first
heard the underrated British band Travis. I always thought Travis was going to
be huge. And while they were moderately successful, they never quite became the
household name I thought they would.

I suspect the Arctic Monkeys won’t be a household
name either. Still, after listening to Suck
It and See
over and over, I see why they have captivated a certain segment
of the rock-music-listening audience. You know, the guys who like a little
melody, some solid drums and unapologetic bass lines that provide a warm bed
for a charming guitar riff. The Brits have always handled these duties well and
the Arctic Monkeys – still in their 20’s, I believe – have managed to hone
their craft beautifully.

Hilariously, a good friend of mine was joking the
other day about the term “treacle.” Well, he was in the car with me when the Arctics
song “Black Treacle” came on. What are the odds, eh?

With a simple strum from Jamie Cook, Turner sings on
“Black Treacle” of “belly button piercings in the sky at night.” It has a
sneaky, druggy vibe that these Yorkshiremen pull off swimmingly. This is an
example of an indie-rock sound that we’ve heard on 20-plus-year old records by
British bands like Ride and Slowdive, although perhaps not as shoegazerish as those groups. Cook's guitar style is reminiscent of that sound, though.

One of my favorite songs is the knuckleheaded, early
70’s-styled clunk/rocker “Brick by Brick,” which features drummer Matt Helders
on lead vocals. It’s so dumb and so mindlessly rawk, that it’s a hard track not to love.

It’s a great track. And then there was the
Travis-like “She’s Thunderstorms,” a track that should be playing in Starbucks
coffee shops the world over. Whether or not you, the reader, thinks that is a
positive thing … well, I’ll leave that up to you.

The dreamy guitar-pop opening (and the clicking of
the drumsticks) to “The Hellcat Spangled Shalala” makes me sigh. The rhythms
between Helders and top-shelf bassist Nick O’Malley really gel. And dig those
off-the-beat handclaps. A Morrissey-friendly track I continue to return to.

Turner’s lyrics are pretty compelling. The menacing single
“Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” features the lines: “Bite the lightning and tell me how it tastes
/ Kung fu fighting on your rollerskates / Do the Macarena in the devil’s lair /
But just don’t sit down ‘cause I’ve moved your chair
.” All the while, the
moody, cavernous vibe gets under your skin.

The propulsive “Library Pictures,” with O’Malley’s
thundering bass rolls, features references to “curly straws,” “metaphors and
goo,” “and the best line: “the thunder suckle fuzz canyon.” I think that should
be the name of a new group!

“Reckless Serenade” is promising in all it’s
headbopping jingle-jangle, while the lines “You
look like you’ve been for breakfast at the Heartbreak Hotel
” on “Piledriver
Waltz” (originally recorded in a more acoustic style by Turner for the Submarine soundtrack) has a poetic flow
all its own.

And speaking of poetry, on the title track Turner
tells us he poured his “aching heart into a pop song cuz he “couldn’t get the
hang of poetry.” If only! Turner and the boys have a clear understanding of
pop-song structures, poetic turns of phrase and an added dash of dry English
humor (humour?). Cheeky Monkeys indeed!

It and See
closes out with the wistful “That’s Where You’re
Wrong.” A fitting bookend for an entirely admirable album. Someone buy producer James Ford a round!

As the UK Guardian
noted, the Arctics have created a “British indie-rock record” that is more The Queen Is Dead than it is like Queens
of the Stone Age, a reference to Josh Homme’s production on 2009’s  Humbug.
For this discerning music lover, that’s a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I did
the Queens, but for a band of this caliber, the Smiths are a more appropriate
touchstone, otherwise things can get a bit “daft,” as drummer Helders might say.

By the way, Matt Helders told NME that the band is already working on their next album while they
are doing their arena tour with The Black Keys. They have a new single “R U
Mine? b/w “Electricity” (or is it “Evil Twin”?). Anyway, it sounds as though we’re
getting more great music from the Arctic Monkeys in the coming months.

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2012 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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