Arctic Monkeys: From Sheer Brilliance To Total Mediocrity

When Arctic Monkeys released their latest album they reached a new low in their career, just how did they go from the heights of 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' to the slapdash 'Suck it and See'?
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When Arctic Monkeys released their latest album they reached a new low in their career, just how did they go from the heights of 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' to the slapdash 'Suck it and See'?


Have the likeable ruffians lost their edge?

‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’ was and is a brilliant album. A fantastic foray into the musical consciousness of the nation. ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ was very much hit and miss but listenable none the less. ‘Humbug’ took some listening to but it is a 'nice' album, though there is nothing stellar about it. ‘Suck It and See’ is a terrible, terrible abomination to popular music and a massive slap in the face to fans who have bought the album and paid a fair amount of money to go and see the likeable ruffians. There is something about them that kept me coming back for more. I now fear that my patience has worn thin. I severely doubt I will ever look forward to an Arctic Monkeys' release again. It was more mislaid trust than frenzied expectation; I want them to do well more than anything. Well that's not strictly true what I want is for them to entertain me and give me something I can listen to over and over again without feeling the red mist descend or slip into a boredom induced coma. But they appear to have lost the magic touch (eluding them since their barnstorming debut). The fire has now died to a spark that is threatening to fizzle out.

In my opinion an album should be judged on its own merits initially. Comparing it to others within the artists back catalogue or with its contemporaries is not the best way of evaluating the merits of a piece of music. However it is almost impossible not to judge it in such a way. It's just easier to do so. A very male thing to do comparing and contrasting requires as little use of expressive language as can be desired. So I will try my best to judge each album on its own merits but I'll probably end up falling into the trap in order to make my point.

My point is that since their first taste of success the Arctic Monkeys have slowly but surely made a mockery of themselves. This has culminated with the shocking lack of quality found within the last album 'Suck It and See'. The lyrics are ridiculously bad and the melody is banal. It isn't laughably bad, I just can't listen to it without wanting to cause harm to everyone around me. As has been said, ad nauseam, the lyrics found on the first album are clever, fast paced and catchy. It doesn't take many listens before you are able to shout every word of each track back at your hi-fi or back at Alex Turner himself. It is this quality that is lacking in their more recent releases. There doesn't seem to be anything that grabs me the way WYSIATWIN (Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not) did.

There are issues that arise now. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder we each have our own personal opinion on music and that shapes how we listen to it and judge it. A big factor which shapes how you receive music is who you are as a person. This is why WYSIATWIN was/is such a massive album for me. I could relate to almost everything in the record, it spoke to me; it summed up a period of my life pretty succinctly. This is something we all do, we force a piece of ourselves onto the music and allow it to speak for us when we are not able to vocalise something about ourselves.

So this may be why every other Arctic Monkeys' album pales in comparison to the debut. It feels like there is more to it than just that though. There seems to be a lack of care and feeling in the lyrics on 'Suck It and See'. Everything feels contrived and hurriedly put together in a slapdash manner. This means that it is not easy to listen to. Not even slightly. It is more of a cringe worthy chore than an aural treat.

The lyrics are ridiculously bad and the melody is banal. It isn't laughably bad, I just can't listen to it without wanting to cause harm to everyone around me.

Recently whilst channel hopping I came across The Graham Norton Show who featured as its special music guests...well you can guess who. I shivered and turned the channel over. New depths are being plumbed in order to appeal to the unwashed masses who don't like music but instead listen to the TOP 40 countdown and other such pop catastrophes. Almost proving my point that there is nothing good about 'Suck It and See', there are no redeeming qualities.

It is definitely true that artists and bands need to evolve musically in order to remain both original and relevant however this does not need to come at the cost of quality of output. I feel this has been the case of Alex Turner and Arctic Monkeys. Perhaps with the exception of Turner's soundtrack for Richard Ayaode's directorial debut Submarine which was, in my opinion, brilliant if a bit ‘samey’. The version of Piledriver Waltz on the soundtrack is superior to the version on 'Suck It and See'. It's less busy as a song, and there is no bombarding of the ears. I do not expect the lyrics and music to be written in the same way, in the same spirit, as the first album was. This would be an aberration. Maturation must take place. Unlike wine or cheese they have aged like cheap milk your mum bought from Kwik Save before it bit the dust.

Unfortunately Arctic Monkeys have fallen into a realm into which they are no longer relevant or credible only popular and profitable. Their bread and butter was creating songs from experience and being able to use wit to shape it. In the beginning there was a startling amount of output from the band most of which was stellar. You could drink it all in. From demos to EP’s to the debut LP. It was simple, understated, stylish and as catchy as the pox. Both chicken and small.

Alex Turner has it all. So now perhaps there is nothing for him to write about. There don't appear to be any stories to tell. But there must be and we all know that he has the tools to tell them - So why not? Has he lost the drive and energy to create and be credible? It feels so. Churning out mindless trash is easy and profitable and what the unwashed masses want, apparently.

Perhaps I am just being über critical in wanting everything I hear to be brilliant. It is true that I have high standards and that I am highly judgemental. I do realise that everything I listen to cannot be brilliant and something that I will connect with and love. But this does not mean that I cannot be disappointed. It would be naive to think that every album would be of the same high quality as their exceptional debut. So surely I should look for different ways in which these records excel? The truth is I have tried but with the exception of a couple of 'good' tracks I have found that they are garbage. A touch harsh, that I will concede, but I don't like sitting on the fence. Love or death and all that.

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