Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, introduced a group of teenagers whose tastes in music began and ended with their high-school subscriptions to NME. But inevitably, with age, the band’s taste broadened, and the Monkeys began to take an interest in rock classics. On 2009’s Josh Homme-produced Humbug, Arctic Monkeys swapped the post-punk frenzies of their first records for ’70s hard-rock clamor and psychedelic digressions—a bum trade, ultimately, but one that conveyed the excitement of exploration—and the band continues its journey backward on Suck It And See, this time channeling even more familiar rock influences, from The Beatles and the Stones to the Beach Boys.
In its ’60s worship, Suck It And See recalls Different Gear, Still Speeding, the recent album from Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, though Suck It never kicks as hard or convincingly as even that record. It’s as if Arctic Monkeys spent so much time sculpting and refining these songs that no one stepped back to realize how slow they turned out. The lumbering rockers “Brick By Brick” and “All My Own Stunts” crawl at training-wheel tempos, letting the sleaze in Jamie Cook’s guitar linger uncomfortably. The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-esque single “Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” is even more ill-fitting, with Alex Turner attempting a brooding croon that’s far too shaky to strike actual menace.
Even when the band tempers the bluster in the album’s mellower closing stretch, Turner never recaptures his old charm. Where he once spun lyrics from dryly funny observations, here, he largely sings in dreary zingers. “That’s not a skirt, girl, that’s a sawed-off shotgun,” he peacocks on Suck It’s title track, “and I can only hope you’ve got it aimed at me.” Only five years ago, Turner was a fresh-faced quipster hopefully eyeing a crush on the dance floor, but now he’s playing into the tiredest archetype: the jaded, sunglasses-shaded rock traditionalist on the hunt for an easy lay.