A delicious fourth helping
In 2006, in his brief introduction to the band's debut single video for 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor', a timid Alex Turner awkwardly scoffed 'Don't believe the hype'. The band's debut album is now hailed as one of the greatest albums ever made. A year later, they re-appeared with the equally mesmerising 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' and made it to three, two years ago with the completely misunderstood effort 'Humbug'. What I'm trying to say is that you should very well believe the hype. Arctic Monkeys are one of those bands who love to experiment and subvert expectation, testing their audience's limits with change after change. They are one of those chameleonic acts like David Bowie who are so very unbelievably talented that they can morph their sound just as soon as you get used to their old one. In short, these four still relatively young men are geniuses. 'Suck It and See' is just another rung on the ladder, another milestone of achievement.
Arctic Monkeys albums are a rare beast and 'Suck It and See' is no different. Relentlessly picked apart and mulled over by critics, it is a rare feat for a band to reach their fourth album these days. Thundering opener 'She's Thunderstorms' opens up a theme that dominates the album, Turner's lovelorn ideas of passion and romance, with Turner and Jamie Cook's guitars combining to create a thunderous ambience. Studio mess about 'Brick by Brick' featuring a debut lead vocal from Matt Helders boasts a riff so infectious, and a bassline so hypnotic from Nick O'Malley that it's musical power overcomes it's lyrical shortcomings. 'The Hellcat Spangled Shalala', a somewhat calmer and more atmospheric track than its title suggests, complete with fuzz guitar, is another study of Turner's sweetness and lovesick nature.
The track's first single 'Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair' must be played loud to feel the full effects of its meaty riff and like the previous track, sees Turner enter the realm of the psychedelic. 'Do the Macarena in the Devil's lair' he humorously howls, a million miles away from the instantly relatable words of his early poetry, hinting at his intense lyrical depth. Despite forays into the psychedelic and metaphorical, Mr Turner's heart is still very much entrenched in realism. The awkwardness of the 'chin-chewing' girl in 'Black Treacle' or the 'type of the kisses where teeth collide' in 'Reckless Serenade' are the most prominent proponents of this. He may not be singing about taxi ranks or mobile phones anymore but the language used by Turner on 'Suck It and See' has arguably never been more real and arguably never been better.
The raucous 'Library Pictures' is the perfect showcase for Matt Helders' drumming, and anyone that has listened to Helders from the start will be warmed by his ever-continuing drumming progression. His relentless smacking illuminates the track in conjunction with Jamie Cook's searing guitars as Turner malevolently cackles of the 'ellipsis that will chase you 'round the room', a man who is enjoying the sound and power of individual words on this track, skimming through his veritable 'library' of vocabulary to heighten the track's atmosphere. Just listen to the haunting instrumentation of 'Piledriver Waltz' or the unexpectedly heart-wrenching 'Suck It And See' which exclaims 'You're rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock and those other girls are just post-mix lemonade'. Turner's eloquence and flair seems to know no bounds and it is fascinating to listen to one of the best lyricists of our generation flourishing uncontrollably.
The only criticism that can be pointed at the album is levelled at its most important contributor, young Mr Turner. Where the music sounds fresh and exciting, always subverting expectation, occasional lyrics have a tendency to become awkward. 'Piledriver Waltz', an otherwise stellar piece of poetry does suffer from some clumsy and oblique lyrics that see Turner going too far in his explorations of the absurd. 'I etched the face of a stopwatch on the back of a raindrop' and 'go into business with a grizzly bear' are lyrics that seems to have slipped past quality control and are surely too oblique to make any sense.
So, it seems as if the rug has been pulled from under us by those cheeky Monkeys. Just when you expect one thing, they become another. The dark and moody ethos of 'Humbug' has been replaced by bittersweet, lovelorn and head-over-heels in love lyrics, where the contributions of every band member firing on all cylinders ensures that this album is an absolute classic. Those who have written the band off after failing to recreate the street-smarts of their classic debut should be shot for having their eyes closed and such a narrow mind, is it not clear by now that Arctic Monkeys are doing what they want? Not what the critics want. This band is a rare breed, experimenting with sound after sound and constantly succeeding. Alex Turner's lyrics, which apparently now lack the wit and cynicism that he used to possess, are constantly evolving as his creative flow seems to be moving quicker than ever. Don't believe the critics that want to pigeon-hole this amazing band, do as Turner warned you not to, and believe the hype. Their fourth album is just as much of as classic as their previous three. 'Suck It and See' and taste its delicious centre, I guarantee that no better album will be released this year.