While in the early days of the Arctic Monkeys, songs about nightlife and bars were a prominent feature, but it’s unlikely that any were penned from within the walls of Sheffield’s finest public houses. However, as the years have rumbled on, clearly, they have grown in confidence and developed the ability to craft classics on a whim without the need to even wait for the sober light of morning.
Admittedly, the track in question, ‘Brick by Brick’, is far from their most verbose or complex number, but the slapdash back story imbues the simplicity of the song with a bit of rock ‘n’ roll charm. As Alex Turner told the NME: “We were in Miami on tour once and we just got off a long flight to there and we had an idea for a song called ‘Brick by Brick’ and so we wrote it that night just sort of in a bar.”
Later adding: “But it was quite loose, we thought about it as the concept of a song and all these things that you want to do– brick by brick– and we just made a list of them that was probably three times as long as what it ended up over that night and the next few weeks.”
When crafting the classic Suck It And See track, the band borrowed a technique propagated by Iggy Pop, whereby the shirtless proto-punk would try to keep the word count of his songs to a minimum and embellish from there. As Turner explained to Pitchfork: “I read this story about Iggy Pop, where he said there was a TV show he used to watch when he was young, and the guy would ask kids to write letters into the show, and the letters had to be less than 25 words—and he applied that to writing ‘No Fun’. So, since we always do songs with a thousand words, we thought we should try one that had less than 30, which turned out to be ‘Brick by Brick’.”
The track is daringly simplistic, and as such, it seemed fitting to bestow it onto drummer Matt Helders to lend his pipes to the lead vocal line. And as Turner goes on to say, it also proved seminal when tackling the rest of the record: “Even though it is dumbed down, we know it, and it’s got a sense of humour; it says ‘I wanna rock ‘n’ roll’ like three times, which is hilarious. There have always been jokes all over our songs; I originally started writing lyrics to make my friends crack a smile, which is difficult.”
The track went on to be a teaser for the album released back in 2011 (how has it been that long!), which saw the band find a middle-ground between the darker desert-rock tones of Humbug and their early raucous and humorous tales. It might not necessarily be their opus, but having played it live 179 times to date, it certainly serves its purpose, injecting a bit of carefree fun into their live sets.
H.G. Wells may have once written: “It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning,” but the tale of the rollicking ‘Brick by Brick’ proves that sometimes morning’s buzz numbing ways are best avoided.