If any act is used to playing a massive puddle of mud, it's Arctic Monkeys. (You didn't think I was going to say Puddle of Mudd, did you?) It's always raining at Glastonbury, Reading and those other British festivals Lollapalooza modeled itself after. The Sheffield foursome might be used to the rainy weather and sloppy conditions, but when a biblical storm dumped a Great Lake on our heads, the set was postponed 30 minutes.
I'm starting to think of the ever-improving Monkeys as two bands. The new Suck It and See, the band's fourth album, is one of my favorite of the year, because it displays such improved songwriting and melodicism. In it, I hear Morrissey, the Kinks. On the other hand, live, the band is a shredding blur of Britpunk. As lovely and poetic as "Piledriver Waltz" is on record, "Brianstorm" is batshit berserk onstage. With just 35 minutes to play, Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders prodded the troops in turbo mode, rocketing through songs from across the catalog. There was little room for banter. "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" clocked in at about two-and-a-half minutes. That's Black Flag speed. Turner pouring lyrics in "Florescent Adolescent" rivaled Eminem.
As much as I prefer the pretty songs, I will admit that the wordy heroes of the English youth are become impressively muscular and heavy. But I wish the bait-and-switch bipolarism would evolve into something more consistent. I suspect their afraid to lose the crowd by playing something delicate and swaying like "Black Treacle." But standing in black treacle up to my ankles, I could have used more beauty.