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Light and airy, filmic but intimate, carefully arranged but deceptively powerful, Suck It and See is ARCTIC MONKEYS’ fourth album. Recorded at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles with long-time producer/collaborator James Ford, it has a summery pop feel: with the bulk of work completed on the West Coast during January, it’s got the feel-good sound of stealing some winter sun, some out of season Vitamin D.
So far the Yorkshire 4-piece is three for three for the #1 spot in their native UK. Their last album, 2009’s Humbug, was another world-wide smash, topping the charts in Britain, Ireland, and France and hitting the top ten in multiple other countries around the globe.
“Everyone was in a really good mood when we were there,” says singer/guitarist Alex Turner, “so I think the fact we were having a laugh comes across. I think we wanted it to sound quite fun and up, not too serious.” “We knew we wanted to go somewhere and do it and it was gray and horrible here (in England),” says Matt Helders (drums) about the decision to record in LA; Alex: “The studio we were in (Sound City) there’s been some greats… there’s a really good drum room, that was a big draw, it’s where they did Nevermind.”
For Suck It and See the Monkeys changed the way they work, as Alex explains: “The plan this time was to get the songs together early on and have them be the guide.” Suiting the album’s pop approach, Suck It and See is much more arranged than the last album, Humbug, with Jamie Cook’s guitar a particular revelation: adding flavor, excitement, and a variety of textures in short bursts. Matt: “We cut live and recorded – no cheating!”
The album’s twelve songs vary in pace and texture, with Alex Turner’s vocals taking a more sophisticated, smoother approach – no less humorous or blunt, but a different pitch, more insinuating. “It’s kind of got lower as times go on,” he reflects about his voice. “A lot of these ones I wrote at home on an acoustic guitar, sort of sitting, and when I do that I tend to sing softly and quietly and low. There’s a bit more space I suppose, its not quite as rapid as it used to be.”
Suck It and See is full of songs that chart the twists and turns of sex and love with elemental imagery, sharp lyrics, and great pop-cultural metaphors – with references to past rock ’n’ roll classics (“you look like you’ve been for breakfast at the Heartbreak Hotel’), different kinds of soft drinks (Dandelion and Burdock, Postmix Lemonade), and arcane 21st century leisure pursuits (Laserquest).
Let’s go back to those soft-drink references on the anthemic title track, “Suck It and See”….
Alex: “Dandelion and Burdock is a rare fizzy drink, English I think.”
Matt: “Yeah probably not even so much down in London I don’t think. It’s good. It’s really quite sweet.”
Alex: “And then postmix lemonade you have a lot more often so I thought that would be quite a good analogy to compliment a woman if she’s …”
Matt: “One of a kind…”
Alex: “Yeah ‘you’re rare’ … and doing that with a fizzy drink seemed quite funny.”
Arctic Monkeys are Jamie Cook (guitar), Matt Helders (drums/vocals), Nick O’Malley (bass), and Alex Turner (vocals/guitar). Suck It and See contains twelve songs, including a reworking of “Piledriver Waltz” from the Turner written soundtrack to Richard Ayoade’s film Submarine.
But wait a minute: what about that album title? A reference to last album Humbug, or what?
Alex: “I guess it is in a way but we struggle with putting a title on a record and have done every time… To be honest we just thought that, out of all of the song titles, that was the one that made most sense. That’s quite a nice phrase, it’s an old British phrase.” (It means “try it out.”)
Matt: “It’s a bit ‘Carry On’….”
— Jon Savage 2011