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Music

How a classic western inspired this Arctic Monkeys song

@SamWKemp

Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album Suck It And See was something of a reboot for a band who had defined the sound of the British indie scene since the early 2000s. Their incredible rise to fame was unprecedented, largely because they were one of the first group’s to earn a fanbase not by gigging alone (although they did a hell of a lot of that as well) but also by utilising the viral power of the early social networking site Myspace.

Following the release of their 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys became one of the UK’s most successful bands, with singles like ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ making that first album the fastest-selling debut in UK music history. Over the next few years, Turner and the rest of the band refused to be swept up by media frenzy and quietly continued to release a succession of albums, each of which took their songwriting in a new direction.

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Arctic Monkeys’ ability to sound fresh time after time was demonstrated yet again with the release of their 2011 album Suck It And See, which blended influences not only from the world of rock, pop, and even classic cinema. Describing the origins of the Suck It And See track ‘Black Treacle’, Turner once explained how that particular track came “much later down the line,” when Turner was struggling to finalise a couple of songs before stepping into the studio.

“I watched a couple of westerns when we were doing this, like Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid which gets a reference in there,” Turner began. “I also just wanted to put “belly-button piercings” in a tune, I thought that would be good. I’d kind of wanted to do it for a couple of weeks and then managed to fit it in there. Why? I’d not thought about them for a while and they came on my radar somehow. And then I thought about this thing of them and the stars being juxtaposed.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Turner would draw influence from classic westerns. While ‘Black Treacle’ contains little of the musical DNA of these films, with The Last Shadow Puppets, Turner embraced the surf-infused twiddling of Ennio Morricone’s scores for films like Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, just as he did with Arctic Moneky’s 2018 offering Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

In Suck It And See, however, this influence is somewhere way in the background, bubbling under the surface, soon to emerge.