Arctic Monkeys have, as far as this listener is concerned, steadily sustained their unique indie rock sound after bursting onto the music scene with their record-breaking first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. As far as the British charts, Whatever People Say… sold more copies than any other debut album in its first week and thoroughly examined–with a distinctly acerbic tone–the way of club culture in England.
On Suck It And See, Arctic Monkeys adopt a startlingly wholesome modulation. Considering the title of the album and where it was recorded (Los Angeles), one would expect an edgier repertoire of songs as opposed to the decidedly pop tinge saturating every track. Opening with “She’s Thunderstorms” and “Black Treacle,” the harmonized vocals of Alex Turner and Jamie Cook come across as a futuristic hybrid of Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers. It is on the third track, “Brick by Brick” (also the first single), that Arctic Monkeys deviate slightly by including heavier guitar riffs, but, come “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala,” Sheffield’s finest go right back to their homage to the late 50s and early 60s.
Returning to their roots with the inordinately long song title of “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” the Arctic Monkeys switch gears to a more 60s garage aura. I think The Sonics would approve. Following this track is “Library Pictures,” which blends a loungey vibe with an occasionally frenetic choice of chords thrown in randomly.
“All My Own Stunts” stands out on Suck It And See as the song most likely to pass for being on either Whatever People Say… or their sophomore album, Favourite Worst Nightmare. “Reckless Serenade,” one of the best variations on a mid-twentieth century pop song, possesses lyrics that also show a somewhat softer side to the writing style of Alex Turner:
“I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is I need/Called up to listen to the voice of reason/And got the answering machine.”
“Piledriver Waltz” is a nonpareil composition on the album in that 1) It’s amazing and 2) It also appears on the soundtrack for Submarine as a solo version by Alex Turner (personally, I prefer the Submarine rendering, but the Suck It And See one is enjoyable in its own way). “Love Is A Laserquest” is another close contender for best love song on the album (after “Reckless Serenade”). “Suck It And See,” the controversially named song for which the album derives its name, is purposefully sweet (“I poured my aching heart into a pop song/I couldn’t get the hang of poetry”) and in keeping with the ironic affectation the Arctic Monkeys are renowned for.
Concluding with “That’s Where You’re Wrong,” an uptempo ditty that is the perfect counterpart to “She’s Thunderstorms,” Suck It And See is a worthy addition to the Arctic Monkeys’ prior work, though Humbug is perhaps their most under appreciated (the Ray of Light of their albums, if you will). In the long run, however, I’d like to believe that the moody, cerebral nature of Humbug will triumph over the straightforward pop melodies of Suck It And See.