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Suck It And See
Arctic Monkeys Suck It And See
Released 3 June 2011
Producer James Ford
Label Domino
Length 40:09
Genre Indie rock
Website www.arcticmonkeys.com

Try as I might, I am still unable to find anyone who genuinely believes that Humbug was worthy of the four and five star reviews that some of the music press were throwing about with reckless abandon two years ago. Sure there were some cracking songs in the shape of 'Cornerstone' and 'Crying Lightning' but it never really got the adrenalin pumping in the same way their previous efforts did. The move to more mature subject matter was inevitable but the spark just wasn’t quite there. So is the follow up a regression to the tried and tested formula? With Suck It And See the short answer is no, but lessons have been learned.

The album opens in a rather subdued fashion with 'She’s Thunderstorms' followed up by 'Black Treacle'. Both songs have a sing-a-long charm to them and are instantly likable songs but can be taken as a statement of intent by the band. Cast your mind back to the opening tracks on Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare (namely 'View From The Afternoon' and 'Brianstorm'). These songs had everything, the frenetic interplay between all instruments mixed with Turner’s comically keen observations on youth culture; these songs typified what early Arctic Monkeys were about. If Humbug suggested a move away from youthful exuberance into respectable band territory then Suck It And See confirms it.

That’s not to say that the band have hung up their dancing shoes in favour of pipe and slippers; they still rock pretty hard as proven by 'The Hell Spangled Sha la la' and they can still write brilliantly unconventional love songs as evinced by 'Piledriver Waltz' (getting the full band treatment having already appeared on Alex Turner’s recent solo EP, Submarine) but the music just feels more structured and less unpredictable. The breakneck speed has been reined in and the sudden changes in tempo occur less frequently, Humbug’s chilled out vibe was definitely not a flash in the pan.

Another surprising element to the album is Turner’s lyrics. He’s clearly one of the most talented lyricists this side of the Atlantic and his previous efforts have produced poetry from the most mundane of situations. For the most part on Suck It And See he puts in his usual strong performance and we end up with some classic lines like, "If you’re gonna try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes" on 'Piledriver Waltz' as a random example. But there are two instances where Turner is surely giving the middle finger to the notion that he must always write generation defining rhymes. 'Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair' is a catalogue of clichés ("break a mirror / roll the dice") and strange acts ("Go into business with a grizzly bear") that must have taken all of five minutes to write while 'Library Pictures' is pure nonsense summed up by the closing lyrics, "Give me an eenie meenie miney mo / Or an ip dip dog shit rock n roll". Absolute codswallop with no meaning or depth but the songs still work, perhaps Turner is going through his Magical Mystery Tour phase.

The failings of this album are few but they did niggle at me. The band appear to be trying too hard to mimic the sounds of established bands; 'That’s Where You’re Wrong' sounds like vintage Stone Roses while 'All My Own Stunts' sounds suspiciously like a faster version of 'I Think I Lost My Headache' by Queens Of The Stone Age, Josh Homme’s involvement in Humbug obviously having a lasting effect on the Monkeys. The songs are definitely authentic sounding but I prefer when the Monkeys are following their own path.

There is also a flimsiness to the second half of Suck It And See, like the foot has been taken off the accelerator. The songs are less punchy and the impact is minimal; 'Reckless Serenade' and 'Love Is A Laserquest' are instantly forgettable filler that slow down the album calling to mind the less interesting moments on Humbug.

Suck It And See is a definite improvement on Humbug but perhaps not quite the return to top form many had hoped for. The songs on offer are generally strong but you feel that there are still a few kinks to iron out in the new look Arctic Monkeys, perhaps the next album is where it will all make sense.

- Brian Kinsella