Album review: Arctic Monkeys - 'AM'
Let me start off by saying that the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album ‘AM’ is undeniably the band’s most incredible album to date.
By saying that, I’m not saying the band is at its pinnacle. No. Not by a long shot. This is a band reaching their peak. They’re not there yet. The best is yet to come. But AM, the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth studio album, is something special.
This is a band coming into its own shaking off the impression of drunken Yorkshire youths revelling in their clever-cleverness.
With an entirely new image reeking of ‘50s sex, drugs and real earth-shattering rock ‘n roll, the relocated Los Angeles band is still no-bullshit, but wrapped in skinny-jeaned funk.
It’s also Alex Turner front and centre.
I am reminded of that first album where this bunch of English kids decided that they were good enough to make a record, and it’s a hell of a transformation to this; leather jackets, white t-shirts, slicked-back hair, sunglasses indoors (par for the course, as Turner sings on No. 1 Party Anthem) and black-and-white, polished smoothness that goes down like a good, expensive bottle of whiskey.
With Turner’s eloquence and poetry leading the way, the band has shed a layer of the past, and in true Arctic Monkeys style, presented the world with something new, different and very, very beautiful.
AM is a curveball. It’s a funk-indie mix of R&B and rock laced with high-pitched backing vocals.
Turner has shifted from telling tales of sleazy indie nightlife to songs that are far more self-lacerating, with a sound that is so indicative of its subject matter – something the Arctic Monkeys have always been good at.
It’s a record about sex, lust, frustration and isolation, as well as getting really, really high.
Whether it’s about actual lust or about Turner’s struggle with the band's recent transformation into rock gods is debatable.
It opens with a smack in the gut with Do I Wanna Know? – an in-your-face riff and basic beat draw you in to a tale of Turner in love – or lust – deciding whether he wants to know if she feels the same way. But it’s not that simple. Everyone knows that feeling. And it sucks.
Turner’s ability to twist the knife into your solar plexus with his words makes a fairly standard feeling absolute torture with lyrics like:“Crawling back to you/Ever thought of calling when you've had a few?/'Cause I always do/Maybe I'm too busy being yours to fall for somebody new/Now I've thought it through/Crawling back to you.”
First single R U Mine? is a blistering track that encompasses the world of sex and love and desire put into SMS-speak. Taking the same theme of Do I Wanna Know?, Turner isn't sure of the answer to either question, and the resulting limbo makes him stumble around this uncertainty all over the album.
Arabella, a favourite of mine, is typical Arctic Monkeys with killer bass and epic guitar, coupled with lyrical turn-of-phrase that captures you from the first verse. With Turner’s characteristic thick accent, he sings: “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.”
AM’s centerpiece is No. 1 Party Anthem, which is a seedier take on I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, set in a dank club made up of "lights on the floors and sweat on the walls, cages and poles.
It is a somewhat anthem, wistful with its acoustic strums and croons. "The look of love/ The rush of blood/ The 'she’s with me'/ The Gallic shrug." You can almost imagine an old man sitting in the corner, trying to relive his 20s.
Latest single Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High? is another exploration into Turner’s confusion and isolation, with a crapload of drugs in his system and one girl on his mind.
“Now it's three in the morning/And I'm trying to change your mind/Left you multiple missed calls/And to my message you reply/Why'd you only call me when you're high?”
Late 20s desperation in being single is a kick in the nuts, innit?
AM goes way beyond sweaty nightclubs and flirting. Its turn of direction for the band is a different take on their previous shenanigans and takes it into the seedy hotel rooms, and the afterparties, and bad decisions that can follow.
It is essentially the work of a band still growing and experimenting. It’s the moment they stopped being defined by genre and instead created their own as artists who can do whatever the hell they want, because now we know – very well – Who the Fuck are the Arctic Monkeys.
AM is quite simply 41 minutes and 57 seconds of perfection.