AM (Arctic Monkeys)

0 AMEver since Alex Turner and co. recorded the 24 songs which would eventually be condensed into Humbug in Joshua Tree, California, the influence of Josh Homme has permeated nearly every record that Arctic Monkeys have produced.

Humbug itself marked a noticeable shift in focus and delivery, showcasing the band’s evolution from creating upbeat (yet crucially cynical) songs to a search for a far more expansive – if darker – sound. This stylistic shift proved difficult for many of the band’s young fans to accept, and such friction was emphasised further when Turner decided to remove some crowd favourites from the band’s set lists on a permanent basis. However, as the Arctic Monkeys have matured both musically and emotionally, such pretentious tendencies have begun to dissipate, and they now seem to have discovered a way in which to balance their darker tendencies with the crowd-pleasing prowess of old.

2011’s Suck It And See showcased a band capable of maintaining such a balancing act, and though the album was accused (wrongly) by some of having no obvious singles, it was a record that displayed Turner at his melancholy best. Exquisite ballads such as ‘Piledriver Waltz’ and ‘Black Treacle’ were counterweighted with moodier pieces, such as ‘All My Own Stunts’ and the single ‘Don’t Sit Down ’Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’. Consequently, when anticipating the band’s next release, it was intriguing to ponder what developments would be wrought from such an ever-evolving group of musicians.

Arctic Monkeys’ fifth studio album reveals the band to have further pursued and refined the murky, expansive aesthetic which listeners initially heard on Humbug, with album opener (and lead single) ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ exemplifying this most perceptibly. There are a few notable exceptions to such down-tempo numbers, including the frenetic ‘R U Mine?’, which recalls the relentless drive of 2007’s ‘Brianstorm’, while also showcasing the consistently impressive tightness of the band’s instrumentation, featuring an intricately-constructed drum and bass arrangement.
Homme’s influence is evident throughout AM, with the band producing irregular minor-scale riffs, high vocal harmonies, and a deliberately oozing pace which reveals the record’s allegiance to night-time listening.
Homme’s influence is evident throughout AM, with the band producing irregular minor-scale riffs, high vocal harmonies, and a deliberately oozing pace which reveals the record’s allegiance to night-time listening. The Queens of the Stone Age frontman’s presence is particularly noticeable in the increasingly weary vocal deliveries of Turner, who delivers helpings of his trademark sardonic wit with a refreshing ease. Nevertheless, Homme is not the only big name stamped over the shapes of the music of AM. Delving deeper, Lou Reed haunts the smooth, slick ‘Mad Sounds’, and the requisite Turner ballad ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ evokes the catalogues of John Lennon and Morrissey as well as Turner’s own work on the soundtrack for Richard Ayoade’s Submarine.

To accompany such ballads, tracks such as ‘Arabella’, ‘Snap Out of It’ and the infectious single ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ add some welcome impetus, supplying more muscular choruses whilst showcasing Turner’s infamous wordplay (sample lyric: “Arabella’s got some interstellar-gator skin boots / And a helter-skelter ’round her little finger and I ride it endlessly”). If these tracks seem like more familiar (albeit satisfying) rock fare, the inclusion of Homme’s vocals on ‘Knee Socks’ and ‘One For the Road’ display the band exploring an ulterior musical territory, delving into a more sultry, stoner-rock sound that is sure to enthral fans both old and new.

0 Arctic MonkeysAM’s charming closing number ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is taken from the John Cooper Clarke poem of the same name, yet Turner seems perfectly at home delivering verses that include the infamous lines “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust / I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust.” It comes as little surprise that the band found themselves influenced by Clarke: the famed perfecter of the same dry wit which Turner continually strives for.

Although many reviews are sure to proclaim AM as the Sheffield group’s masterpiece (and it surely is their most interesting record to date), several of its moments do suffer from sitting alongside such high-quality material. ‘Fireside’ and ‘I Want it All’ – both perfectly acceptable indie-rock tunes – simply don’t distinguish themselves enough from their peers, and as a result, are perhaps the least memorable songs on what otherwise is a sonically strong album.

Whilst AM has not explicitly been labelled as a conceptual album, the entire record evokes a night out with friends: a messy alcohol (or perhaps substance)-fuelled occasion which has no predetermined trajectory, no guarantees as to who will (and won’t) be included, and no foreseeable conclusion in sight. But, as intimidating as it may seem, this is a night out on which we would all want to tag along.

Similar To: Echo & The Bunnymen, Queens of the Stone Age

MP3: ‘Snap Out of It’, ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’




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