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Album review: Arctic Monkeys 'Suck It and See'

June 7, 2011 |  8:56 am

Its latest effort shows that the British group that once showed such promise needs to find its footing.

Arctic_6_suck

Urgency proved the currency when Arctic Monkeys exploded in 2006. The British group’s first album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was the quickest-selling debut in U.K. history, and its prickly alt-rock songs carried commensurate propulsion. Frontman Alex Turner’s witty, succinct chronicles of young life even pegged him as an heir to great English songwriters like Elvis Costello and Paul Weller.

Alas, Arctic Monkeys have been running away from that initial promise ever since: Their last two albums, 2007’s “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and 2009’s “Humbug,” seemed like showcases to prove they could rock hard. The latest, “Suck It and See” (English slang for “give it a try”), slows the pace but ultimately feels even more detached.

Where Turner’s lyrics once proved incisively observational, now he writes puzzlingly about “the devil’s pedicure” (“The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”) and doing “the macarena in the devil’s lair” (“Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”). Satan is clearly not his friend, because any sonic tension has clearly dissipated. Turner’s vocals once exuded whip-crack syncopation, but here he’s largely settled into pleasant, ultimately nonchalant crooning.

Flashes of brilliance prove tantalizing — “All My Own Stunts” buzzes with evocatively nervy guitar, and “Don’t Sit Down…” thrills intermittently in its dynamic shifts. Meanwhile, “Library Pictures” highlights drummer Matt Helders’ kinetic virtuosity. Such moments, though, remain disconnected from a compelling overall vision. “Put on your dancing shoes / And show me what to do / I know you’ve got the moves,” Turner sings on “All My Own Stunts,” wistfully referencing the band’s early hit, “Dancing Shoes.” The comparison doesn’t help; instead, it just makes one wish Arctic Monkeys would find their footing once again.

Arctic Monkeys
“Suck It and See” 
(Domino)
Two stars (Out of four)

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— Matt Diehl

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