Juxtaposed with earlier albums such as Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Arctic Monkeys’ AM represented a departure from the sweaty chaos of Sheffield nightlife and a transition to something sleeker, but still quintessentially ‘rock n roll’. A quiff-clad Alex Turner, encased in skinny jeans, was all grown up and the album was the perfect accompaniment to the band’s new image. An image often is a fickle thing but over the last ten years, AM has proven it has the chops when it comes to longevity, so ten years on, how do we remember the album that came to define the band’s commercial success?
A track that stands out as a divergence from the band’s sound is ‘No.1 Party Anthem’
Though thematically consistent throughout, the energy of the songs as you navigate the album makes for a wild ride. The album begins with a now immediately recognisable guitar riff on ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, setting the tone for a more serious, but still playful version of the band’s previous work. If there’s one thing Arctic Monkeys can do, it’s evolution. A line from ‘One for the Road’ rang true to fans: “There’s no need to show me round baby, I feel like I’ve been here before”. Though a slower, more sophisticated sound seems starkly different from both their first and second albums, previous records arguably laid a seamless groundwork for AM. Though a different sound to the jangly playfulness of Suck It and See, its older brother Humbug proved they could do sultry – dare I say, sexy? AM achieved the perfect balance of a reinvention of a band that was by 2013, a British icon, without doing too much as to upset the applecart. Previous albums proved the band had versatility but AM symbolised a synthesis of the band’s previous eras of sound, making for a mature and well-rounded work. They are definitely songs of a young adult rather than a Sheffield nightclub regular, yet still maintain a sense of familiarity.
AM was like the old stuff but cleaner and more refined, and its perfect timing alongside the black-white-and-denim Tumblr girl era got many young fans hooked, including myself. For older fans, the band had grown with them – Arctic Monkeys were still churning out banger after banger. But it felt as though they were made for a larger scale in mind, in both stadium capacity and commercial value. And they had every reason to pre-empt this scale – the album went to number one in the UK and other countries, and made it into the Top 10 in the US. AM, a record aptly named, was a statement of “this is us, take it or leave it”, and cemented the band as not only a British cultural icon, but a real contender in global halls of fame, with its awards speaking for themselves.
AM played us out as the early 2000s era of cool Britannia drew to a close
A track that stands out as a divergence from the band’s sound is ‘No.1 Party Anthem’. With dreamy psychedelic guitar and a significantly lighter sound than other tracks on the album, it feels reminiscent of Turner’s work in the supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets, and bares an uncanny resemblance to tracks on the Submarine EP. This dreaminess blends into the mellow guitar and tambourine of next track ‘Mad Sounds’, before we are swiftly awoken from our slumber with ‘Fireside’. This track is still no doubt Shadow Puppets-adjacent, but serves to reinstate the heaviness of earlier tracks through its drum-heavy sound, while never being too much – a brief that Matt Helders, as always, fulfils to perfection. AM truly propelled the band to more sophisticated heights, brimming with a sense of mature musical efficacy, which they would develop further.
As works like Humbug and Suck It and See had laid the foundations for AM, this album went on to do the same for the band’s later releases. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was a left-turn if ever there was one – dropping sleaze for suave, and a surrealist suave at that. Tranquility Base was a departure, both in sound and in place, as the band had by this point left Sheffield and relocated to L.A. AM alluded to a developing loungey style but Tranquility Base was a more decisive arrival into this musical paradigm. AM was retro but Tranquility Base married this with a newfound futurism unbecoming of the indie rock we’d come to know so well. The Guardian writes that both Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino and the band’s newest release, The Car, have split the band into two parts: one, a “riff machine” catered to festival crowds, and the other, a band whose ultimate goal is musical freedom – completely untethered by genre. Ten years on, AM remains as iconic as ever, but for some fans, allows reminiscing as the band’s style has evolved beyond their taste. Ultimately, AM played us out as the early 2000s era of cool Britannia drew to a close, and has successfully earned its reputation as a career-defining album.