This British group, which achieved international success before its members were 21, has already crested beyond the growing pains of a typical musical gestation—just in time to legally rent cars.
The debut was frenetic and prankish. The sophomore album was muscular and cautious. The third album was heavy and experimental. Suck It and See is a confident, loose fourth outing that may be the Arctic Monkeys' most assured and strongest.
The group's strength emanates outward from Alex Turner's songwriting prowess. With a knowing remark on the sparkling, expansive title track ("That's not a skirt, girl, that's a sawn-off shotgun / And I can only hope you've got it aimed at me"), and a surrealist touch of street-urchin poetry on the chiming, airy "Piledriver Waltz" ("I etched the face of a stopwatch / on the back of the raindrop"), Turner remains a skilled and savvy writer.
Luckily, there is enough musical acumen to envelop Turner's witty words in melody, rhythm and more than a little grunge. Opener "She's Thunderstorms" is angular and explosive; "Black Treacle" is an anthem that swings like a pugilist; "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala" is vamping and cavernous. Even the more shambolic offerings, like the propulsive, aggressive "Library Pictures," or jangly, swaggering "Brick by Brick" are nuanced enough to warrant repeat listens.
If this all sounds like shades of the band's past, it is for good reason; Suck It and See often plays like an idealized synthesis of Arctic Monkeys' strengths. Such maturity may be predictable, but it also proves utterly satisfying.