Arctic Monkeys – AM

Album, Music, Reviews August 10, 2014

Originally published and still available on Renowned For Sound (07/09/13)

More than a little something has changed in Arctic Monkeys land hasn’t it? It has almost been a long time coming; back in 2009, when Humbug first dropped, many an Arctic’s fan and critic were a little bit were a little bit flabbergasted by the band’s departure from the rapid fire quips and frantic energy of 2006′s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and 2007′s Favourite Worst Nightmare, which was instead replaced by the murky and brooding sound of songs such as Crying Lightning and Cornerstone.

2011 birthed fourth album Suck It And See and a sound that was unprecedentedly mellow, before single R U Mine appeared unexpectedly in March last year to celebrate Record Store Day. It was different. It was groovier than anything they had ever done before, and this is most definitely a band that is fond of throwing curve-balls. It is this eclecticism that should be taken into consideration when listening to the band’s new album, AM, as their songs and albums are some of the most viciously debated and defended by both fans and critics alike.

AM announces its arrival with the plodding beat of Do I Wanna Know?, the single that had the world gagging for more since it first appeared in June. Its sultry and seductive manner is one that has not been so potently displayed in the band’s songs before, and seamlessly weaves into the brash new mix of R U Mine? (with drummer Matt Helders’ falsetto vocals more interspersed than the original cut) before forcing the listener to dip their toes into One For The Road. The song is the first to truly carry that perceived R’n’B tinge that the band have so claimed in recent interviews, and continues the alluring undercurrent that is entwined between the songs. Likewise, Arabella takes a deceivingly sexy turn before electrocuting the listener awake with its rowdy classic rock guitar.

I Want It All proves to be a riotous bit of fun with its galloping beat, hand-claps and jaunty riff, however it’s a total 180 with slumberly No.1 Party Anthem, which takes heady influence in the sound of Alex Turner’s Submarine EP for the film of the same name. Mad Sounds is similarly just as chill, giving us a rather spaced out ‘ooh, la, la, la’ refrain to get involved with, whilst Fireside makes for a darkly intense driving song. Recent single Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? manages to fall at the wayside next to the Mowtown influenced Snap Out Of It, before Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme provides additional wailing in the sleek Knee Socks.

Much like Suck It And See and Humbug, AM is by no means an immediate pleaser; at times it can be considered almost too smooth, with the only remnant of the band’s early years that still makes the cut being Turner’s ever piquant lyrical style (though John Cooper Clarke’s ‘I wanna be your vacuum cleaner and breathe in your dust’ may raise a few sardonic eyebrows). The band of early noughties: Sheffield and the band of now: L.A are now more than modestly Americanised, but their striving for the next should be encouraged and not just derided. Only a fool would expect Arctic Monkeys to still be the band of 2006; Helders’ vocal, for example, is omnipresent, as are the grooves, though for all its posturing, it fails to match the brilliance that R U Mine promised way back in 2012, with its companions -whilst adventurous – at times feeling a little hollow and initially unlovable, and whilst we can presume that Turner succeeded in winning over his lyrical muse, listeners of AM may prove to be tougher nuts to crack.

See more of my Renowned For Sound articles here.

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