The Arctic Monkeys are back with another album this week (9th September 2013), and by the sound of the first few spins it could be one of their best. It’s a lot more sparse at times than anything that they’ve done previously and semi-experimentional, especially Alex Turner’s vocals and Nick and Matt’s higher than high backing, but there’s still a lot of the much lived heavy hooks and social commentary lyrics that the band started with.
While its still not quite as all encompassing as Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, it’s got the best opening two tracks they’ve had on an album since The View From The Afternoon and I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor. Do I Wanna Know? Is a sure footed plod with a killer riff, great effects, scything lyrics including the line, “simmer down and pucker up”, and a lead and backing vocal mix that steal’s attention. It’s followed by last year’s single release R U Mine?, which has only gotten better with time.
The experimentation kicks in with One For The Road, which blurs in R&B into the Arctic Monkeys soundscape and sets a new president for the band which is called on again later in the album in Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High. Bizarrely it works quite well on One For The Road coming off the back of Do I Wanna Know? and R U Mine? It’s followed up by the hard rocking Arabella, demonstrating the changeability of AM.
Things get pretty high pitched on I Want It All as it continues the big guitar love that started on Arabella before the pace changes down to the slower, rock n roll lullaby, Number 1. Party Anthem. The speed ticks along at the same tempo as it’s followed up with the Velvet Underground inspired Mad Sounds, building a sort of doublet lull into beauty that builds on the music Alex created for the movie Submarine.
The lyrics on Fireside are what makes the track so important to the album. As Alex ponders, “I’m not sure if I should show you what I’ve found, has it gone for good or is it coming back around”, he lays the foundations of something more being at the heart of AM and leaves you with a little uncertainty about what it might be.
The album version of Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High is a lot better than the single video version with its bow to effects that take away from the flow of the track, which combines simple rock with a little R&B to produce an odd track that grows in time.
Snap Out Of It swirls up the pop aspect of Arctic Monkeys with a little of the old Last Shadow Puppets flare, but it’s one that a lot of old school AM lovers might be inclined to pass over. Knee Socks sees more of Matt and Nick’s higher registers on the vocals along with more of the album’s flirt with R&B. It’s closed out by the tongue in cheek synth pop slow down psych R&B of Wanna Be Your adding the final piece of randomness to the puzzle.
There’s a lost love theme to AM, which is probably forged on the surface as a result of various relationships the band members have had, but it also feels like it might be something deeper than that also. The lyrics imply a sort of lament to the music that they love and return to its side, as well as an ode to their fan base, which lifted them so firmly into the limelight back in 2005. AM is heartfelt and open, deep in its construct, heavily hooked by guitars and filled with cool tracks. It’s still not Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, but it’s the one of the best we’ve seen since.
Arctic Monkeys AM review: 4/5
Arctic Monkeys, Do I Wanna Know video:
Arctic Monkeys, AM track list:
1. Do I Wanna Know?
2. R U Mine?
3. One for the Road
5. I Want It All
6. No.1 Party Anthem
7. Mad Sounds
9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
10. Snap Out of It
11. Knee Socks
12. I Wanna Be Yours