Don’t take it so personally
You’re not the only one
that time has got it in for honey
That’s where you’re wrong
— That’s Where You’re Wrong, Arctic Monkeys
Back in 2006, the teenage Arctic Monkeys wedged the five-track Who The F*ck Are Arctic Monkeys EP in between their Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not debut album and Favourite Worst Nightmare follow-up.
The EP’s title track showed wisdom beyond the band’s tender years by musing whether ‘in five years time will it be “Who the f*ck’s Arctic Monkeys?”
Who The F*ck Are Arctic Monkeys presciently acknowledged the fickle nature of the music game but now, five years later, in 2011, it’s just as pertinent – for different reasons – to ask who the f*ck are Arctic Monkeys?
Hopefully not Queens Of The Stone Age this time around. The Sheffield lads rather lost their way when they wandered out into the Mojave Desert under producer Josh Homme’s tutelage for last album, 2009’s Humbug, and allowed the Queens frontman to mould their Britpop sound into a crude approximation of his day band’s sleazy rock schtick. It was a misstep.
It was jarring to hear a band who’d cheekily railed against local ‘weekend rock stars’ from Rotherham pretending to be from New York City on debut’s Fake Tales Of San Francisco follow that exact clichéd rock ‘n’ roll path. Single Cornerstone was ace, mind.
So, this fourth album has some making up to do. Does Suck It And See succeed? Mostly.
Singer-songwriter Alex Turner has toned down the weekend US rock star shapes a tad and cast at least one eye back to good old Blighty. That’s not to say this is a total reversion back to their early sound. Most of the songs here dwell in a half-way house between UK and US-style Arctic Monkeys but fortunately they’re not marooned all at sea.
On first suck this set doesn’t seem to have much bite but persistence rewards and resistance is futile. There’s a real – ugh, no other way to describe it – ‘maturity’ on show but not in a fusty tired way.
Disappointing album teaser Brick By Brick is, thankfully, one of the lesser songs here and the real treasures are unearthed in the quick fire duo of Reckless Serenade and Piledriver Waltz or The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala‘s chiming pop buzz, complete with – yes – ‘shalalala’ chorus.
Turner has rediscovered his lyrical nous, riffing on homegrown phrases again, while marrying it to a worldly-wise newfound preoccupation with the passing of time in one so young. Perhaps stormy relationships have left their mark. Last time around the love of his life was Crying Lightning and this time She’s Thunderstorms.
The good ship Arctic Monkeys has managed to navigate past Humbug‘s choppy waters, reaching safe(ish) land with original producer James Ford back at the studio room controls.
Closing track That’s Where You’re Wrong could even set a course for future voyages. Turner positively croons as the Monkeys ape Echo & the Bunnymen-esque guitar licks to good effect. The 1980s back to the future vibe rather suits them, see.
earworms: Piledriver Waltz, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, That’s Where You’re Wrong