Arctic Monkeys – AM: Album Review
September 18, 2013 § 8 Comments
After the cheery vibe of their first two albums, Arctic Monkeys took on a darker sound on 2009’s Humbug and even more so on Suck It And See (released in June 2011). AM, the band’s latest album which dropped on September 10, is a far cry from 2011’s meager Suck It And See – and gladly so. The new album is a space-rock trip that finds the four boys experimenting more than ever. The band has called Los Angeles home for the past few years, and the desert-y California ’60s vibe can definitely be felt throughout the record. But there are also flecks of Los Angeles rap as well as the cool undertones of minimal R&B – which makes the album quite unique.
In recent interviews, frontman Alex Turner has stated: “(The album is) the malt liquor of Death Row records chased down by at the very least a Bacardi Breezer of what (the band) calls ‘girlfriend music – the music our girlfriends were listening to at school when we were into Dr Dre. With people like (an) Aaliyah, what’s sometimes seen as being cheesy is actually a real coolness about the melodies, and we wanted to get a bit of the way that music moves into what we were doing (via Consequence of Sound).” AM was produced in Los Angeles by James Ford and co-produced by Ross Orton. Guest contributors include Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello), and Bill Ryder-Jones (The Coral).
The album opens up with the rumbling groove, “Do I Wanna Know?” Serving as the first official single off AM, it showcases the growth of frontman Alex Turner’s vocals – which are highlighted by the buzzing guitar licks and smooth percussion. The seductive lyrics don’t hurt either:
“So have you got the guts? Been wondering if your heart’s still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts. Simmer down and pucker up. I’m sorry to interrupt it’s just I’m constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you. I don’t know if you feel the same as I do. But we could be together if you wanted to”
Following is current fan favorite, “R U Mine?” It was first teased back in February, but it’s throwback rocker vibe still holds strong. It has notes of classic Arctic Monkeys from their 2006 post-punk debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, intertwined with ’70’s psychedelic rock. “One For The Road” ( that features Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme on vocals) has a gritty, unexpectedly hip-hop undertone – courtesy of the staccato drums as well as Turner channeling his inner emcee as he slightly raps (!!!) on the hook.
“Arabella” is AM‘s chilled out mid-tempo stunner, best served cold with a freshly rolled blunt with Turner putting forth his current Elvis inspiration on the vocals. Peep the super-sexual and space-agey lyrics:
“Arabella’s got a 70’s head. But she’s a modern lover. It’s an exploration, she’s made of outer space and her lips are like the galaxy’s edge. And her kiss the colour of a constellation falling into place”
“I Want It All” is a knee-tapping uptempo that is reminiscent of the Black Keys’s popular garage rock sound and Muse fused into one, while “Fireside” is a sparkling disco-infused tune. Another favorite, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” is very simplistic. It is a moody, sultry, texting your fling at 3am type of tune. It’s another song on the record that has an R&B feel, a type of song Drake would make if he was a rocker – and I mean that in the best way possible.
Closing out the record is the extremely sexy “I Wanna Be Yours” – a soulful down-tempo, extremely sexy that integrates the title poem from John Cooper Clarke:
“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner breathing in your dust. I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I won’t ever rust. If you like your coffee hot, let me be your coffee pot. You call the shots babe, I just wanna be yours”
It’s exciting to watch the Arctic Monkeys’ growth from scraggly blokes from Sheffield who created a teenaged frenzy with 2006’s “I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor” into more mature, confident and suave men. 2013’s AM is a post-disco, “let’s stick around the dance floor before the lights turn on” slinky album. The only downside is that the lyrics are missing the metaphorical punch that Turner usually gives on his records – this time around the lyrics are very straight forward. None of those brilliant, Shakespearian British references are found here.
AM is a sonically heavier Humbug, who thought that would’ve been possible? It’s funny how on they famously boasted “You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham. So get off the bandwagon, and put down the handbook” on 2006’s “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”, yet they’ve turned into the men they never wanted to become – but it’s actually working in their benefit. It’s now clear the band was trying to develop this new sound with Suck It And See, but ultimately failed. With AM, the Arctic Monkeys didn’t just reach their goal – they transcended it.
Overall Rating: 4.7/5
Songs On Repeat
“Do I Wanna Know?”
“R U Mine?”
“One For The Road”
“Snap Out Of It”
Songs To Skip