Just when the world is no longer particularly bothered about a new Arctic Monkeys record, they've finally released one worth being bothered about – at least in parts.
After the mock-sinister comeback single "Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair" (essentially a comedic list of dangerous things to do, such as "wear your shell suit on bonfire night") stiffed at No 28 in the charts, it's debatable whether Suck it and See, the Sheffield band's fourth album, will even make it out of the sweet-wrapper. If that's the case, it will be a moderate shame.
Recorded with long-time collaborator James Ford in a five-week spell out in LA this January, it sees Alex Turner moving ever-further away from his early public persona of the snotty problem Northerner who was never quite as clever as he thought he was. It helps that his singing voice has become deeper and more resonant with maturity (he's apparently been listening to John Cale and various classic country singers, which may be partly responsible). But what's also happened is that some of the alluring classicism of his Last Shadow Puppets side-project has carried through into the Arctic Monkeys proper.
Opener "She's Thunderstorms" may be the most nonsensical declaration of love since "But after all / You're my wonderwall", but the Smiths-in-1960s-mode melody is a beauty. "Piledriver Waltz", a rerecorded version of the song written for Richard Ayoade's Submarine soundtrack, has Roy Orbison echo all over it, "Library Pictures" is swirling pseudo-Hispanic psych-rock, and "Black Treacle", another 1960s-inspired tune, is drenched in George Harrison-esque slide guitar. However, the fact of being in the studio where Nevermind was recorded clearly proved too tempting on a couple of tracks, and the guitars on "All My Own Stunts" and bassline on "Reckless Serenade" are third-hand Nirvana knock-offs.
As you'd expect, though, Brit-specific cultural references still abound: the title track compares a girl to "dandelion & burdock". Elsewhere, the shoegaze-sounding "The Hellcat Spangled Shalala" has some fine wordplay ("Did you ever get the feeling she's said these words before? Her steady hands may have done the Devil's pedicure..."), but Turner won't be winning any awards for lines such as "Lately I've been seeing things/ Belly-button piercing in the sky at night".
And "Brick by Brick", featuring Matt Helder's first vocal, features surely their worst lyric ("I wanna steal your soul/ I wanna rock and roll"). When Arctic Monkeys are in that kind of form, the only thing to do is spit it out.