Friday, May 27, 2011

On Heavy Rotation: Arctic Monkeys "Suck It and See"

It's only fitting that my first music post on this site be about an Arctic Monkeys' album, because after all, the blog is named after a Monkeys song title.  "Suck It and See", the band's fourth album has been considered by many as the chance for the Arctic Monkey's to win back all the fans they may have lost with their previous effort, "Humbug."  Honestly, I had my doubts about the band and "Humbug" after the first few listens. The album eventually proved to be a grower, not a shower, which came as a surprise.  As far as first impressions go, "Whatever People Say I Am,..." was probably the best first impression I've ever had of a band after one listen.  It instantly became my all-time favorite album, and still remains in my top 3 to this day.  When they released "Favourite Worst Nightmare," it seemed Arctic Monkeys were on a mission to knock you onto the seat of your pants with hard hitting, loud,  race paced rock songs that would damage car speakers for years to come.

But "Humbug" changed everything.  They slowed things down for the first time, which confused and frustrated most fans.  But those who stuck around for multiple listens, like me, began to appreciate the new Alex Turner and Co.  They had changed, there was no denying that. But they hadn't taken a step back or gotten worse.  They had matured.  Maybe I was lucky. I became a fan of this band right before college, which will change, mature, and mold just about any person, and I guess my music tastes broadened and grew to reflect the tastes of the new Arctic Monkeys.  They learned to play their instruments, learned the art of subtlety and little nuances, Alex Turner became quite a good singer, and Matt Helders had become one of the best damn drummers in the world.

I always thought the most frustrating thing for members of any band is living up to expectations with each new album.  There are fans and critics were ridicule a band for simply recreating the same sound over and over on each new release.  But on the other hand, that same band could be lambasted for trying something new, for evolving, for daring to release something nobody's ever heard anything like before.  I'll never forget a moment during my junior year of high school.  Green Day had just released "American Idiot." Critics praised the album, and fans all across the world were renewing their love of Green Day.  But not everyone was happy.  They were playing a show in Hershey, and everyone was talking about it.  I overheard a conversation between to classmates. "Hey man, are you going to the Green Day show tonight?" "No, not really my thing anymore. I didn't like American Idiot. It's not Green Day"  I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The album was great, and he was disowning the band simply because they had chosen to write a political rock opera rather than write another dozen songs about smoking weed and masturbating? I was baffled.  Still to this day, I don't understand why fans do this.

The Arctic Monkeys are a great example of a band who chose to grow up and take their music with them.  Lyrically, instrumentally, and all around quality, the band has matured. And the results are amazing.  The traces of previous albums are all here, mixed in with new ingredients.  Whereas "Whatever People Say I Am..." was a perfect album to work out and run to, "Suck It and See" may be better suited for sitting on your porch on a perfect sunny day, as I'm doing right now. Fans may often be the biggest critics of a band, even more so than actual critics, record label execs, or the band themselves.  Most critics have said this album is more of a return to their previous work, which in my opinion is only half the truth.  These songs are pop-ier, more accessible like their first two albums, and less heavy, depressing sounding than "Humbug".  In that respect, yes, fans will be flocking back in droves. But don't ever expect this band to release another "Whatever People Say I Am" or have a single as popular as "Dancefloor."  But don't expect them to quit making great music either.

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