"The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala," "Love Is a Laserquest," "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair": Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner stakes a claim to the title of Pop Music's Funniest Song-Titler, an honor previously held by Morrissey. The Monkeys' cheeky verbosity marks them as distinctly British, as does their preference for retro-leaning guitar pop. Hopefully, Yanks won't be put off, because this is the band's best since its 2006 debut, with punchy, punky burners, grand ballads, and, throughout, wit.
Forget the high profile side projects, celebrity girlfriends, induction into Josh Homme's inner circle or Stateside recording marathons both with this and its predecessor. No, the real defining moments in the seachange enacted by Arctic Monkeys can be illustrated precisely by two separate events. Rewind the clock back to Saturday 28th July 2007, and take a trip to Manchester's Old Trafford cricket ground you'll find a band delighted yet somewhat ashamed by the adulation surrounding them.
Big bands are depressing, aren’t they? With track records, and popular followings, and publicity comes all that stuff that soon inevitably seems to follow. As so often happens, when reality finally decides to urinate loudly upon our quiet expectations, the faithful cheers with which we commend our champions finally and pitifully die to lifeless whimpers. The real problem is that we then tend to pick our brutalised hopes up off the floor and persuade ourselves that ‘it’s ok’; ‘it’s not that bad’; and ‘maybe next time’.
It’s a common misconception that a good Arctic Monkeys album should hit you like a punch to the face. It’s easy to see why one would feel that way — their ferocious 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not earned its spot in the ‘00s rock canon largely by sounding like the musical equivalent of a bar fight, and their two subsequent LPs both feature their fair share of songs that seize your attention with brute force. It’s understandable, then, if fans used to connecting to the Sheffield lads’ work like a chin to a fist after a few too many pints are a bit confused by their fourth album Suck It and See.
“Lately, I’ve been seeing things,” Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner croons over the skill-saw chording that initiates “Black Treacle”, the second song on the band’s latest album, Suck It and See. What, pray tell, does Turner see? Why, “bellybutton piercings”, of course. It’s a heartwarming Arctic Monkeys moment: a sparkling detail of subcultural viscera acting as a peephole to the sublime, or, more rightly, as a storm-shutter to keep the sublime out.
Review Summary: Arctic Monkeys are still a gang of close friends still very much in touch with their roots.The problem inherent in becoming famous is that you can very easily lose touch with reality. On their debut LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Alex Turner and his band of kind of merry men regaled us with tales of growing up in the north of England; nights out on the town, disinterested dollybirds and befuddled romance. Follow up Favourite Worst Nightmare carried on this vein but mixed it with a sneering attitude towards the sudden fame and fortune they found themselves enveloped by.
With their feverish desert sessions now behind them, Britain’s sassiest guitar outfit—and arguably the century’s most hotly plugged NME darlings—are tasked with matching the bravest move of their short yet enormously distinguished career. Their 2009 psychedelic tour de force, Humbug, simultaneously endeared the Arctic Monkeys to new followers while alienating old ones; such was the drastic shift in tone, tempo, and theme from their previous work. Their latest, Suck It and See, is a long way from Sheffield’s kebab houses and seedy nightclubs, but it intimates that the group is, for all practical purposes, starting to come down from their kaleidoscopic peyote trip.
Those looking for evidence that things are as they always were in the world of Arctic Monkeys – that the celebrity girlfriends, chumminess with P Diddy and sojourns in Hollywood mansions while recording in LA have failed to impact on what Bernard Ingham would call the Yorkshireman's "awkward gene" – might alight on the two songs they chose to trail their fourth album. Brick By Brick was leaked by the band in March, three minutes of sludgy filler with drummer Matt Helders on vocals. "I wanna feel your love, I wanna steal your soul," it offered, "I wanna rock and roll." A month later, Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair appeared.
Back when Arctic Monkeys graced the cover of NME every other week, Noel Gallagher said they wouldn’t win a BRIT Award or Grammy with a name like that—and now they have five of the former. They’re once again playing the awkward name game with Suck It and See. But just as their moniker took a backseat to the music, so does this album’s off-kilter title after you’ve hit the play button.
A gang of surly teenagers gives away music for free online, makes light of the industry's established byways, and somehow manages to sell records at a time when overall album sales continue to dwindle. It's a familiar storyline these days, but when Arctic Monkeys' precociously jaded Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not became the fastest-selling UK debut ever, back in early 2006, the idea of a "MySpace band" was still something new. Now, with News Corp.
From about the moment they broke (arguably the release of their debut single), the Arctic Monkeys were declared by an overeager public and press to be, as many before them and since have been, the saviors of British guitar rock. Rather than overreact to the burden of said prophecy though, as their fellows nearly all have (see: the unspectacular implosion of the Libertines), Alex Turner & Co. have politely shrugged off the spotlight, doing instead what many initially wouldn’t have dreamed: five years and three very good albums counting since their lauded debut, they’re very much alive and well.
The critical restraint of the American press put towards the Arctic Monkeys has faded, now that the formerly breathless hype has become more the stuff of historical background than a paramount bullet point. It’s fair to say that the assaultive propulsion behind Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not fostered immediate, somewhat nationalist backlash; critics unwilling to be swept up in the tidal wave splashed by the British press. In retrospect it all looks a little silly – the Arctic Monkeys are as they were, a handsome group of Sheffielders with the talent, timing, and hooks to spur up a flashbang, file-sharing frenzy.
Returning home after their Josh Homme-directed voyage into the desert, Arctic Monkeys get back to basics on their fourth album, Suck It and See. The journey is figurative: Suck It was recorded not in Sheffield, but in Los Angeles, with their longtime producer James Ford, who conjures a sound not unlike the one he captured on the band’s 2007 sophomore set Your Favourite Worst Nightmare. Homme may be gone but he’s not forgotten, not when the group regularly trades in fuzztones and heavy-booted stomps, accentuating their choruses with single-note guitar runs lifted from the Pixies.
There was a time where practically everything Arctic Monkeys did was seen as something both shocking and instantly titillating – in terms of their hype and exposure. Some credit them as proof of what internet hype can conjure, their first cover was a controversial discussion simply due to its smoking image and some questioned their motives in releasing music at a rapid pace. Through all of this foolish talk, there’s also the underrated aspect of their consistently great music.
Evidence that Arctic Monkeys are still Britain’s best guitar band. James McMahon 2011 These days Arctic Monkeys are not a band singing songs about "f***ing taxi ranks", as frontman Alex Turner quipped recently. They made their last record, 2009’s bizarre Britpop/stoner hybrid Humbug, in a desert. One member, the drummer no less, has the mobile telephone number of one P Diddy.