Sound — 8
I have to hand it to the Arctic Monkeys. This is a group that keeps you scratching your head and/or raising your eyebrows with each new album that is churned out. The English indie rock band's last few records have been fairly huge departures from the garage rock-driven sound of its debut "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not". With Arctic Monkeys' last release "Humbug", the influence of producer Josh Homme was undeniable and the record ended up sounding like a selection out of the Queens Of The Stone Age catalog. With the band's latest record "Suck It And See", previous styles are scrapped and the sound takes a sharp turn in an entirely new direction. The garage rock of old? Pretty much a distant memory. The stoner rock vibe of "Humbug"? Yes, that's a goner as well. What you hear this time around is a strange yet intriguing new divergence that will likely grow on you even if you find yourself a little puzzled initially. The opener "She's Thunderstorms", as tumultuous as it may come across, is actually more reminiscent of a 1950's pop ballad with a little twist of The Smiths. Vocalist/guitarist Alex Turner' vocal delivery has never been smoother and allows for an emphasis on melody more than ever before. There are more than a few tracks that carry a distinct nod to a simpler sensibility you might get with the 1950s and early 1960s, particularly in "Brick By Brick" and "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala". Even the title track feels like it could be from a completely different time, although the heavy use of dreamy guitar effects does give it a dose of the contemporary. There are two main elements that stand out on "Suck It And See": the guitar textures and the rich visual imagery within the lyrical content. On pretty much every one of the 12 tracks these two aspects will leave you pretty satisfied. That doesn't mean there is a lot of variance to the guitar lines and solo work is almost nonexistent, but the thick tones certainly catch your attention. Perfect examples of these arrangements arrive in "Love Is A Laserquest" and "Piledriver Waltz". The album is mellow for the vast majority, but there is a soothing, ethereal quality to it that makes for an enjoyable listen.
Lyrics — 10
The colorful, oddly fascinating lyrical content is easily the best part of "Suck It And See". Almost every line catches your attention because the rhyme schemes are quite out of the ordinary. The title track is a prime example with lines like, "Your love is like a studded leather headlock; Your kiss, it could put creases in the rain; You're rarer than a can of dandelion and burdock; And those other girls are just postmix lemonade". And then you have the quirky, confusing-but-appealing track "Library Pictures" that features the lyrics, "Library pictures; Of the quickening canoe; The first of its kind to get to the moon; Give me an eeny meeny miny mo; Or an ip dip dog shit rock and roll". These are the kind of lines that keep your mind engaged from start to finish, and once again prove that the Arctic Monkeys are just trying to rehash the same old thing.
Overall Impression — 9
It was difficult not to be taken off guard at first, primarily because the sound on "Suck It And See" bore little resemblance to the Arctic Monkeys' previous material. It's a step in the right direction, however. While "Humbug" was enjoyable, it was simply too seeped in Josh Homme's trademark sound. Garage rock lovers may be put off by "Suck It And See", but the band's new sound actually seems quite the perfect fit for Turner's vocal delivery. It might just be safe to say that even if you love it, the Arctic Monkeys may take a dive into a whole other genre next time around. In this cookie cutter day and age, that's a pretty respectable and gutsy choice.