Posts Tagged ‘Arctic Monkeys’

A belated return to the world of blog posting here at Riot on the Radio is sparked by the much-discussed acceptance speech made by Alex Turner at last week’s Brits ceremony for British Album of the Year.

With accusations flying round of Turner being “pretentious” and a “pompous tool” I would like take this opportunity to defend the enigmatic Arctic Monkeys‘ frontman.

First and foremost, Alex Turner hails from High Green, Sheffield. Since when has anyone from Yorkshire ever been accused of being pretentious? Belligerent, stubborn and opinionated maybe but pretentious… Lest we forget this is a breed of human that refers to what a southern softy may label a “roll” as a “breadcake”, the second syllable of which is drawn out longer than a five-day match of test cricket.

Secondly, so what if Turner didn’t conform to stereotype and deliver the inevitably dull, automated thank you message that characterised most of the night’s winning acts. Was it not refreshing to hear an unrehearsed lyric-worthy reel hailing the resilience of rock music? More to the point, Turner comically alluded to what most will interpret as any non-rock ‘n’ roll genre as “sludge”. For that he deserves a slap on the back not round the face! Let’s face it – those most critical of Turner are most likely to be the sort who listen/acclaim to the kind of Black Treacle tosh that typifies 21st century chart music. 

Thirdly and finally, so maybe he did go on about 20 seconds too long but Turner isn’t a stand-up comedian with a born sense of timing. Such a mishap is inevitable for an off-the-cuff speech. Leeway has to be granted to the boy, whom with humour and humility, famously accepted the 2006 Mercury Prize with the opening line, “Someone call 999, Richard Hawley’s been robbed!”

No. Alex Turner deserves praise not persecution. In Turner’s embodiment we have arguably this generation’s only true musical genius. With David Bowie collecting the Best Male Solo on the night, I would expect nothing less than Turner to one day go on to receive the lifetime achievement award; following in the footsteps of Weller and co.

Rock ‘n’ roll is in rude health ladies and gentleman with Alex Turner at the helm. As Alex points out, Britain’s best-loved genre is once again primed to “smash through the glass ceiling looking better than ever. Yeah that rock ‘n’ roll. It seems like it’s fading away sometimes but it will never die.”

Amen.

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Bromheads Jacket are another raw Sheffield [-adopted] indie band formed in 2005, closely associated with acts like Arctic Monkeys and Milburn.

Frontman Tim Hampton has ties with the outspoken Jon McClure of Reverend & The Makers. He featured on their groovy first album track Bandits whilst also composing the album’s title song The State of Things.

The Bromheads clockwise: Dan (drums), Tim (vocals, guitar) & Jono (bass). Photo: Andy Brown

Slated by Guardian reviewer Leonie Cooper, Bromheads Jacket’s 2006 debut Dits From The Commuter Belt proved popular in other [non arty-farty] circles. Alex Turner, for example, professed his approval of the record. What contrasting fortunes the two songwriters and bands have had.

Tim can be spotted at underground venue hangouts like The Harley in Sheffield. Meanwhile Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders reportedly owns The Bowery on Devonshire Green just down the road.

Below are a selection of the best tunes taken from Dits…

One Nautical Mile – bass line hook, heavy riff, clashing cymbals, cracking lyrics – “like a Christmas tree lit up through the air … I’ve heard the poppadoms are moist … let’s do one next time and get a kebab”

 

Poppy Bird – an emotive ballad about a Walthamstow gem whom rides the London underground.

 

What If’s And Maybe’s – a 100mph crash, bang, wallop of a song.

 

Now a garage two-piece, Bromheads can be found on Myspace here

Evil Twin, the B-side of Suck It And See has crept unnoticed into the Arctic’s setlist. Motorbikes, guns, sex, denim and balaclava boy Matt Helders star in the videos. Both emphatically issue a SOD OFF to those retailers who censored their album title in the US and the same ilk of critic whom slated Britney Spears for glamourising guns in her raunchy video Criminal. Plenty of guitar twangs from Cook. To be released tomorrow!

Echo & The Bunnymen have a legacy. Evidently this is something Ian McCulloch needs to learn and not ruin. “We think it’s important to keep coming back” the gruff, notoriously uncompromising vocalist tells this evening’s all-seater audience. The lavish decor of Manchester’s Palace Theatre provides suitable backrest for the ageing crowd, 80% of which I hazard are 40-plus somethings. “Anyone got verrrtigo?” he quizzes the third tier, accentuating his Liverpudlian Rs.

Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain (cover art)

Arctic Monkeys poster – coincidence or influence?

Musically, The Doors-inspired Bunnymen are a hard band to define. A swift tour of the venue leaves me equally befuddled after spotting fans exhibiting a collection of Ramones, Cribs and Avril Lavigne shirts. A post-punk classification perhaps?

Tonight Echo are back to showcase in full their flagship album Ocean Rain; released in 1984 at the height of their powers. The addition of strings makes it an extra bit special. In a warming introduction, the string sextet treats us to a version of Love Will Tear Us Apart (always a winner in Manchester).

The first Bunnymen half of the evening is a greatest hits rendition. Initially I’m more blown away by the relentless outgassing of dry ice. McCulloch’s chronic croakiness is probably a symptom. Rescue and Never Stop rouse the restless when the Scouse singer unexpectedly harmonises with a throng of boisterous mid-tier Geordies.

After the interval we return for the Ocean Rain run-through. Immediately the beautiful Silver sparkles, inspiring outbursts of “la la la la las” and “ti ti ti ti tips”. The supplementary strings add powerful backing to Nocturnal Me and the stirring Thorn of Crowns.

The Bunnymen are riding a wave once The Killing Moon has set, and it heightens after navigating the glorious Seven Seas. All waves have to crash however and when a crowd disturbance first curtails Ocean Rain, McCulloch’s own tempestuous nature is provoked.

The Ocean Rain interruption doesn’t leave us entirely drenched with disappointment. An encore of Nothing Lasts Forever and Lips Like Sugar go some way towards sweetening the sour taste.

Today the Echo influence manifests perhaps most closely in the 4th album material of Arctic Monkeys – who were dubbed their ‘spiritual heirs’ by The Guardian. Comparisons are futile though as Echo have carved out an uncontested niche for themselves over the years. Through the haze and controversy aside this was a close to triumphant performance of their best.

Suck It And See

Arctic Monkeys

Domino Records

Released: 06/06/2011

Suck It And See, the fourth full-length album by the Arctic Monkeys arrives amidst strangely little hype and speculation. Considering the lukewarm reception from their fanbase to the third offering Humbug perhaps this isn’t surprising. A blatantly uncreative album cover suggests the Sheffield four-piece are basking in their newfound low profile. The provocative album title provides satirical continuity with Humbug; a concept lost in the USA where the moniker has received censorship.

A quick glance at the rear reveals songs entitled ‘Serenade, Waltz, Love and Shalalala’ leading you to wonder if they have produced a 50/60’s revival record. With Johnny Cash and The Byrds noted as influences this may not be too far off the mark. “We wanted it to be song-based this time” explains Alex Turner whose adventurous lyrics never disappoint.

‘It’s riffs, loud, funny’ states the front cover of one music magazine. “There’s definitely a sense of humour in this record” confirms Turner. “Lately I’ve been seeing things, belly button piercings” he amusingly observes in Black Treacle, a viscous yet sumptuous metaphor for the sky.

Omnipresent features of Suck It And See are Jamie Cook’s guitar chimes which twinkle and fade charmingly in the backdrop of Turner’s smooth vocals.

Enigmatically-named, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala is a sparkling sing-song that resembles the jangling Cornerstone. “I took the batteries out my mysticism and put ‘em in my thinking cap” croons Turner. The beautifully-composed Reckless Serenade tells the tale of romantic encounters with “the type of kisses where teeth collide”. The soppy situations are further ventured in the enchanting choruses of That’s Where You’re Wrong. “She looks as if she’s blowing a kiss at me and suddenly the sky is a scissor”.

Turner’s metaphorical ingenuity continues in Love Is A Laserquest and the harmonious title track Suck It And See where love is likened to a “studded leather headlock”.

In contrast to the overriding story-telling theme, a trio of songs stick out like a white man in Hammersmith Palais. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair is a sole link to the bass-heavy rock reminiscent of the Homme-inspired Humbug. “Do the Macarena in the devil’s lair” Turner rhymes playfully in a dark 3 minutes. Library Pictures is a reminder that the Arctic Monkeys used to write quick indie tracks. The punchline “… or an ip, dip, dogshit rock and roll” cues an electrifying riff backed by Matt Helders’ Offspring-style drum thrashing. The most anomalous track is the lyrically one-dimensional pre-release Brick By Brick which sees Helders assume lead vocals in a new construction.

Having tasted the whole contents though it’s clear Suck It And See has a soft, beguiling centre. The dominant flavour of this selection is more Last Shadow Puppets minus the orchestral element than pre-Humbug era guitar solos. This is a fine demonstration of warming melodies coupled to the words of a maturing lyricist. Long gone are the youthful songs about dirty dancefloors and dreams of naughtiness. The Arctic Monkeys have evolved into huggy bears.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Do you like this review or have an alternative view of Messeurs Turner, Cook, O’Malley and Helders’ fourth installment?