It’s time to get past the silly name and quirky accent: The Arctic Monkeys are leading a new Britpop invasion.
The title of their fourth album, “Suck It and See,” is less outrageous than it sounds. It’s a northern English expression meaning try something new, like boiled candy.
Some listeners found the guitar-heavy riffs on the quartet’s last CD, “Humbug” (2009), indigestible. They may be pleasantly surprised this time, with songwriter Alex Turner back on top. He’s in a playful mood, with titles such as “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair” and lines like “If you’re gonna try and walk on water, make sure you wear your comfortable shoes.” Rating: ****.
The Monkeys’ indie rock isn’t as chart friendly as the Fab Four, though it has been getting attention in the U.S. The CD’s release this week has stolen thunder from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ announcement of a comeback record in August.
Britons have been scaling the U.S. charts. Adele’s excellent “21” is one of the year’s bestsellers, though Lady Gaga is hot in pursuit. Mumford & Sons played Coachella and more U.K. groups are heading over for summer festivals.
The Wild Beasts are Domino label mates with the Monkeys. Their album “Smother” is a worthwhile acquired taste, with Hayden Thorpe’s countertenor voice floating over hypnotic electronica on songs like “Lion’s Share.” Rating: ****.
The self-titled debut by James Blake is another of the year’s more rewarding releases. His dubstep genre features bass samples and processed vocals that sound like croaky robots. On “Lindisfarne I,” Blake uses technology to conjure up the atmosphere of an ancient monastery. Rating: ****.
Friendly Fires is a trio from St. Albans, England, currently at the end of a North American tour. “Pala,” the band’s latest release, evokes a punk party that likely will stir mass gyrations at outdoor concerts. Rating: ***.
For an off-the-wall British choice, there’s Duran Duran. That wasn’t a misprint -- Duran Duran, whose career started in 1978. Ignore the years of ridicule and imagine that the group’s latest album, “All You Need Is Now,” produced by Mark Ronson, was recorded straight after the 1982 “Rio.” It’s not at all bad. Rating: ***.
A very different act, also hailing from Birmingham, is Clare Maguire. Her contralto is part Susan Boyle, part Amy Winehouse and works well on the single “Ain’t Nobody.” Download that number, and pass on the rest of “Light After Dark” -- the gothic drama gets wearying. Rating: **.
What the Stars Mean: ***** Exceptional **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
The Arctic Monkeys and Wild Beasts are on Domino, Blake on Universal/A&M and Friendly Fires on XL, priced from about $8 or 9 pounds. Clare Maguire is on Polydor, available on import into the U.S. The Duran Duran CD is on S-Curve/Tape Modern, with a deluxe edition for about $5 more. Download fees vary across services.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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