Album: Arctic Monkeys, Suck It and See (Domino)

3.00

The lumpy, somewhat stodgy sound that Josh Homme devised for Arctic Monkeys on 2009's Humbug has been mercifully discarded for Suck It and See, which represents a return of sorts to the pell-mell manner of their earlier albums.

To a point, anyway: the "hip, dip, dogshit rock'n'roll" of tracks like "Library Pictures" may hurtle along energetically, but it's rather like a dog chasing an imaginary stick: the poor pooch reaches where the stick should be only to find its owner – Alex Turner, in this case – has teasingly fooled it, with riffs and lyrics that don't really withstand more than the most cursory inspection. In some cases – notably the stilted "All My Own Stunts" – the song appears to have been thrown together from random bits of riff-flotsam that were lying about the rehearsal room. Others either borrow wholesale from previous bands – such as the New Order-esque closer "That's Where You're Wrong" – or are jerry-built from obvious influences: the ringing REM-ish arpeggios of the title-track, the Marr-like guitar-work of "Reckless Serenade", the Morrissey intonations of opener "She's Thunderstorms". Compared to the blast of fresh air that accompanied their debut, Suck It and See seems less confident in its approach.

Apart from its tense, shrill guitar break, "She's Thunderstorms" sounds like a leftover from Turner's Submarine soundtrack, beefed up for Monkey business; and "Piledriver Waltz" was actually more appealing in its Submarine arrangement, sounding here like just another snarky putdown rather than a romantic reflection. But by the sound of things, Turner is having trouble bringing his once zestful imagination to bear on matters of the heart. It's obviously all too easy for him to trot out overladen one-liners like "Do you still think love is a laserquest, or do you take it more seriously?" and "That's not a skirt, girl, that's a sawn-off shotgun, and I can only hope you've got it aimed at me", rather than mine his emotions for something deeper and less flip. And it's no excuse to claim, as he does in the latter song, that "I poured my aching heart into a pop song/ I couldn't get the hang of poetry".

There are exceptions, of course. I like the conceit in "Reckless Serenade" about calling up the voice of reason, and getting the answering-machine; and the line in "Black Treacle" about "somebody told the stars you're not coming out tonight, and so they found a place to hide" – though it's wasted in one of the more perfunctory curtains of thrumming chords. The best tracks arrive mid-album, with the keening guitar and "shalalala" backing refrain of "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala" followed by the oddly forbidding single "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair", with its repetitive, static riff and falsetto interjections. But the overall impression is of someone trying to disguise their true emotions with comic bluster: in that sense, ironically, it's a more macho album than Humbug, despite its lighter touch.

DOWNLOAD THIS Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair; The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala; Reckless Serenade

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