Saturday, 18 June 2011
Written 16th June 2011:
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See
Right here we go again then, Flynndie review time! I seem to have been neglecting my review duties due to working my socks off just recently, but of course, I've always had the comfort of some quality Indie tunes keeping me company while I've been busy the entire time. So let’s get this show back on the road again then and, errrrrm, wrap our lips around the Arctic Monkeys' latest offering ‘Suck it and See’!
So long-time readers will know (and trust me there are only 2 of them that I’m at least aware of!) that I’ve been quite a stubborn fool with realising the sheer greatness of these young lads from Sheffield. When ‘Whatever People Say I Am That Is What I’m Not’ was released for one reason or another at the time I’m really struggled to get into it, however, since the band’s impressive Glastonbury Headline slot in 2008 when the band were touring their 2nd album ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ I’ve since had a bit of common sense to realise that not only are these boys extremely talented, but they are arguably the ‘hottest’ band in the UK at the current time of writing (although I’d still argue that Muse may rightly have to something to say about that!) So with that brief history of my relationship for these Monkeys of a North Pole flavour let’s take a look at this follow up to 3rd album ‘Humbug’.
So the album opens with a slightly-menacing guitar riff, before the familiar dulcet tones of Alex Turner opens with “She’s Thunderstorms….” and straightaway we are given an early indication that this album has a more laid back, yet re-assured approach about itself compared to it's predecessor ‘Humbug’, which was more of a darker, carefree affair that in some cases previously ‘scared off‘ some fans. The tracks swoons along with a quite literal thunderous drumming accompanying the catchy ‘She’s Thunderstorms…..” chorus that the track previously opened with. ‘Black Treacle’ follows and again the listener will notice that although we have a familiar Arctic Monkey’s guitar riff pulsing through the heart of the track, but this is again two or three beats slower than that of tracks from any of their previous albums. The song title seems to be a comparison to that of the drawing dark nights the evening brings, and the uncertainty that sometimes comes with them.
Previously released single ‘Brick by Brick’ is just one of those tracks that makes you stand up and take notice the first time you hear. It's probably the first track on the album, that has a more ‘traditional’ Arctic Monkeys feel to it, as basically Alex make statements of things he would like to do with another individual before the spoken backing of ‘Brick-by-Brick’ by the rest of the band. The track does show a nod to their time spent with Josh Homme while recording ‘Humbug’ as it slows down half-way through, but this only emphasizes the catchiness of the main verses when they kick back in. ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ despite being a keeeeeraaaazy song title just offers the assuredness that this records has in bags. With its summery-feeling bass bouncing all the way through it, and Alex’s ‘sha-la-la-la’s’ through out, this has just got summer-festival sing-along anthem written all over it.
‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’ goes back to the slowed-down menacing sound from ‘Humbug’ and opening track 'She's Thunderstorms'. This continues for the opening 45 seconds of guitar of the track with Alex making references to sayings of those usually associated with ‘doing things that can lead to a bad accident’, such as running with scissors in-hand, before a dirty, savage guitar riff and bassline wrap this track up in a moody, confident swagger about itself! Jamie Cook is on real-fine guitar-solo form by the end of this track!
‘Library Pictures’ is nothing short of epic! That was my first impression upon hearing this track and this has been further cemented with each subsequent listen since. The track opens with battling guitars taking their own time to do 0-60mph and keeps building from there. This is simply a track that will feature heavily during the band’s forthcoming UK Oct/Nov tour in my opinion and will become a firm fan-favourite! ‘All my own stunts’ opens with the band just ‘jamming’ in the studio and I previously read that the band tried to ensure that this record was given a definitive more 'live session' approach to it's recording! The track buzzes along-nicely and sits well in it's place on the record. ‘Reckless Serenade’ is the hand-holding partner to ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’. Opening with deep-bass notes and softly-sung lyrics it’s another mellowed down, coast of a track, but don’t be fooled, this song has a hidden-charm about it and is one of my personal favourite tracks on the album!
Track 9 ‘Piledriver Waltz’ is quite literally a Waltz of a track, another slow-burner, with a plodding-along-like bass-line. It’s a very inoffensive track and keeps the album at it's own pace. ‘Love is a Laserquest’ continues the much-slowed down, almost effortless-like pace on the path that the 2nd half of the album seems to take. Album title track ‘Suck It and See’ picks up the pace again slightly following the previous 3-tracks, and seems to be classic Indie track depicting the relationship between two people, but fortunatley, this track has a nice approach about it, without ever tasting too sickly-sweet which often tends to be a downfall, when many band's attempt a track like this. Album closer 'That's Where Your Wrong' finishes off nicely, but for me I was hoping of a bit more of a 'killer-rock' track by this stage, but I guess this, yet another more mellowed affair, keeps in-line musically with the rest of the album.
So, I've now had 2 weeks to give this album plenty of spins and make my own personal judgement of it. To be honest I really do like this record, it picks up nicely from where the band left-off with 'Humbug', however I do feel it doesn't come close to catching the pure 'living on the edge' feel of the band's first two albums, but then this record doesn't aim to achieve that and as I've said earlier in this review this is a certainly a more laid-back, almost 'casual' like sound from the band. However, I feel this casualness does let the 2nd half of the album down a bit, while the first 8-track of the record really make me sit up and grab my attention, I just personally feel the last few tracks just lack a little substance that would have made this yet another classic record by the Arctics, but don't get me wrong I like this album very much I'm going to award it 8 out of 10 gobstoppers, because if you 'Suck it and See' enough with this record you will find this album has a lot of hidden charm and flavours about itself and deserves more than a good few listens, so certainly a recommended addition for all the Indie record collections out there! Arctic Monkey fans will deffo love this album if they previously struggled with 'Humbug' for sure!!!
Sucking It and Seeing
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Written 18th March 2011:
The Strokes - Angles
This week sees the much anticpated return of The Strokes after a long 5 year absence. Despite their most-recent previous two albums, ‘Room on Fire’ and ‘First Impressions of Earth’ both receiving mixed reviews from the world of music press, I still really enjoyed them and whenever I catch ‘live’ performances of the band I always think to myself they still look effortlessly cool, which is the best kind of ‘coolness’ in my opinion. I also don’t think it is an understatement to say that when their 2001 debut album ‘Is This It?’ arrived it totally breathed new-life back into the indie music scene bringing with it such a refreshing change of style for garage-rock music at the time.
Now despite the band have leaked a few ‘Making of Angles’ mini-clips via their website (http://new.thestrokes.com/, also see the bottom of this blog for links to the clips), in terms of the music for the album, it’s been kept under pretty tight wraps for the past few months. I had eagerly been counting down the days until it’s UK release on the 22nd March via Rough Trade records, however I discovered yesterday (15th March) that the band have decided to stream the album early via their website so I’ve had the album on loop from the site since then and thought now somewhat earlier than expected is a great opportunity to give my ‘First Impressions’ of ‘Angles’.
The album gets underway with the fantastically titled ‘Machu Picchu’ and its funky 80’s-style synth and bass opening cruising through the verses with Casablanca’s familiar gravelly voice, crooning over the top, before a fast-paced chorus comes in with even some bongos thrown-in in the background if you listen very carefully. It’s quite a different sound for the Strokes in my opinion, and the first indication that the band are prepared to push the boundaries musically on this album. Next up follows the 1st single lifted from the album ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, and with its opening guitar riffs followed by a flowing bouncing-rhythm this is much more familiar territory for long-term Strokes fans and as such one of the more instant tracks on the album for the listener.
Third track ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ is different to any track I’ve previously heard by the band. The verses start and initially remind me of one of those tracks from an ‘80’s Driving Compilation’, whether that is a good or bad thing for you I’ll let you be the judge upon hearing it, although I personally don’t mind it. Again it’s new territory for a Strokes sound, but the chorus goes back to the familiar big crescendo of garage-guitar rock the band are rightly famed for. ‘You’re so Right’ again finds the band pushing out on a new wave of guitar sounds for them, with dark brooding guitars between Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. racing against each other through its verses and a distant-like effect used on Julian’s voice throughout with Nick later throwing in a nice little guitar solo to break-up the two verses. ‘Taken for a Fool’ is another instant-type of Strokes tune with another fast-flowing verse, before a loud sing-along chorus has Julian elaborating on an individual constantly being take advantage off and this track stands well in its place on the album with some really funky bass lines pulsing through it from Nikolai (Fraiture).
Over halfway through the record and ‘Games’ continues with another experimental sound for the record and it’s again Nikolai on fine form with an engrossing bass line carrying the verses of this track before an up-tempo chorus comes in with a super-fast drum-beat courtesy of Fab (Moretti) breaking-up the previous two verses and choruses and the track ends with a somewhat more slower, spaced-out feeling rhythm built from the two verses. ‘Call me back’ is the slowed down track of the album, with a gentle guitar loop being the backing to Julian’s softly sung vocals, before a creepy, jangling guitar bridges the middle of the song and despite being a slowed down number this is arguably the most experimental track on the album with a lot of sounds going on in it for the listener to register.
‘Gratisfaction’ reverts back to a more similar Strokes sound from their second album ‘Room on Fire’, and is again another track which I feel doffs it’s cap towards another retro 80’s like guitar sound, while 9th track ‘Metabolism’ goes back to duelling guitars between Nick and Albert, gradually building in intensity as the verse progresses before a crashing bridge and then dropping-down a pitch and then finally gradually starting to re-build again, making this possibly the most intense track on the album. Final track ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ is just simply classic Strokes. Initially building with a softly played and sung verse before Julian belts out a catchy chorus backed with guitars and synths all the stops are pulled out for the finale of this album with Julian ending on the lyrics “Don’t try to stop us/Don’t try to stop us/Move out of the way”, but I’d say that with this 4th album, overall being a great return to form for the band, it would be hard to see anyone stopping the Strokes building upon much more fame and success if that’s already possible.
This album sees the New York band really pushing the boundaries of what a guitar record can and arguably should sound like ‘In This Modern Age’ and sometimes this can be a downfall for some bands when attempting to make a somewhat more ambitious record like this. However I feel that the tracks the band have clearly tried something different on (‘You’re so right’ and ‘Games’ are two prime examples of this) the band pull-off successful well, as initially I seemed to struggle with them but they seem to grow on me more with each listen, a mark of a good record. Throw into the mix some old-fashioned easily accessible Strokes songs and it all adds up to a real return to form for the band, which in my opinion is arguably their best material since the almighty ‘Is This It?’ and with this new record I am going to award it 9 ‘Angles’ out 10 and a definite album recommendation from me to get hold off for early part of 2011.
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk_w-YyJbfY
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYiQUPR5N1w
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZsirqdYAHU
An Acute Angle