Britain’s Arctic Monkeys were the very first music success story of the Internet Age. Posting their demos and recordings on MySpace (remember that?) the band built up a groundswell of fans around the world that quickly catapulted them to stardom. Their timing couldn’t have been more perfect, not only was the technology waiting to be exploited but the British music scene was still going through a post-Oasis malaise. The cry for something new could be heard across the UK and the Arctic Monkeys stepped up to the plate as they attempted to capture the sentiments and experiences of English youth in the 21st century.
Their first two albums Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) and Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007) were both huge critical and commercial successes and established the Arctic Monkeys’ sound of fast paced indie rock that dripped with youthful vigour. Alex Turner’s laconic English drawl also helped set the band apart from their contemporaries.
The band’s third album, Humbug(2009), saw the Monkeys push their sound in a new direction. They flew out to America to record in California and New York. The frenetic, high tempo sing-a-longs were replaced by brooding, psychedelic, heavy guitars; undoubtedly the influence of Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) who co-produced the album. Although not the commercial success of their past efforts, Humbug showed a band that was determined to grow and evolve and not be typecast as a one trick pony.
Although an enjoyable record, the major criticism levelled at Humbug was that it lacked the infectious hooks of its predecessors. With Suck It and See the Arctic Monkeys seem intent to rectify this problem with songs that are immediately catchy while at the same time continuing the work of Humbug by broadening their sonic palette with new sounds and textures.
Opening track, “She’s Thunderstorms” introduces an enchanting post-punk sound that hearkens back to the late 80s and bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain. This post-punk element is laced throughout the album and comes to the fore brilliantly on “Piledriver Waltz” and “Love is a Laserquest.”
At the same time the band still makes use of the heavy rock sound they experimented with on Humbug. The throbbing bass line of “Brick By Brick” delivers a heavy groove that will make you feel dirty in all the right ways while its choruses are pure pop delight. First single “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” is all booming guitars as Alex Turner tempts you like a snake to do something dangerous. “Don’t Sit Down” is one of the few tracks that drummer Matt Helders is allowed to really cut loose and his percussion combined with the slow, dark guitars will pound you into submission.
It only seems like yesterday that the Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene with their energetic indie rock. By now you’ve probably already got a firm impression of the Monkeys and whether or not their material is your kind of thing. If you’ve only ever listened to their Whatever People Say I Am… you’d do well to check out Suck It and Seeif for no other reason to chart the growth this band has shown in such a small period of time. Rather than allow themselves to burn out and disappear as a fad band, the Arctic Monkeys have positioned themselves as a group for the long haul with an expanding, eclectic and engaging sound.
It might be slower than their past work but Suck It and See is a fine offering from a band that has become comfortable in its own skin and assured of its skill. Everything about this record reeks of class and precision. Alex Turner has developed into an engaging frontman whose voice and swagger will have listeners eating out of his hand while the music shows a growing maturity and complexity. Fans should be excited for where this band decides to go next. Sometimes slowing down can be a good thing.
(Domino Recording Co.)
Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper
For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.
So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.
On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.
The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.
Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.
Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill
The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good
One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.
They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.
The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.
Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.
The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.