Summer 2009, Sheffield quartet Arctic Monkeys released their third album, Humbug. Edgy, despondent and surrealistically philosophical it was largely ill received as it took a sharp turn from the poppy, streetwise and mostly observational Brit rock sound they’d established with their first two albums. Two years later it is evident that they made it out of their existential funk, stronger and catchier than ever with the recent release of their fourth LP, Suck It and See.
A sparkling culmination of the sounds they’ve developed over the years, this is could quite possibly be their magnum opus. The album flawlessly combines the cheeky pop and drop-heavy beats of their first two albums with the instrumental and vocal maturity of Humbug. The lyrics, though equally abstract as those of Humbug, manage to be more relatable and thus more enjoyable. Frontman Alex Turner seems to have emerged from the philosophical haze that inspired lyrics such as “My propeller won’t spin and I can’t get it started on my own” and is willing now to bestow his newfound wisdom.
Their maturity is evident in each track. The album beings with the mystically romantic “She’s Thunderstorms” and rolls over to the hook of the album, “Black Treacle.” Songs like “Brick By Brick,” “Library Pictures,” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” are reminiscent of Humbug meanwhile integrating the head banging drops of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare. The standouts of the album are “Black Treacle,” “Piledriver Waltz” and the album’s perfectly suited closer “That’s Where You’re Wrong.”
Perhaps the best representation of the album as a whole is its namesake track, a leisurely and smooth jam with some of Turner’s best lyrics yet: “I poured my aching heart into a pop song/I couldn’t get the hang of poetry/that’s not a skirt girl, that’s a sawn-off shotgun/and I can only hope you’ve got it aimed at me.”
Arctic Monkeys have grown up and moved on from the youthful conundrums and nightlife that inspired the albums the world fell in love with years ago. But they haven’t forgotten where they came from. They’re older, wiser and they’ve found their niche. Even if you were disappointed by Humbug, give this a listen or two. It’s not nearly as much of an acquired taste as the last and it just might provide redemption.
1. She’s Thunderstorms
2. Black Treacle
3. Brick By Brick
4. The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
5. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
6. Library Pictures
7. All My Own Stunts
8. Reckless Serenade
9. Piledriver Waltz
10. Love is a Laserquest
11. Suck It and See
12. That’s Where You’re Wrong