Album Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

You Wanna Know.

Circa 2005, a teenage Alex Turner introduced Arctic Monkeys to the world with their video for ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor‘, adding: “Don’t believe the hype.”

Ironic really, since their debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not‘ rocketed to the top of the charts, winning them numerous accolades and placing the lads from Sheffield on the map. Such hysteria probably hadn’t been replicated like that since The Beatles and arguably, Turner is the greatest songwriter Britain has had since Lennon himself.

However, the band’s blend of indie rock and post-punk distanced themselves from such a ludicrously premature comparison. ‘Whatever People…’ and 2007’s sophomore album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare‘, felt like two albums that genuinely reflected who the Arctic Monkeys were; just four simple souls from Sheffield with the world at their feet.

Whereas ‘Humbug’ and ‘Suck It And See’ saw them branch out into garage and psychedelic rock, with a little help from Queens Of The Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme. As much as they’re both excellent records (Humbug is their masterpiece, in my opinion), there was a feeling that some of their identity was lost in the process of moving abroad, especially to America, a place that was once pure fantasy to Arctic Monkeys.

So when their fifth studio album was entitled ‘AM’, (inspired by Velvet Underground‘s ‘VU’) it suggested that this album is a true reflection of who Arctic Monkeys are and where they’re most content musically. The title is also a dead giveaway to the record’s concept, one of late-night lust, drugs, booze and doomed romance.

Opener ‘Do I Wanna Know’ gloriously muscles it’s way in with a downright badass guitar riff that’s as groovy as hell (one that will live long in the band’s career, with a procession of hand claps, it’s incredibly simple, genius even and so effective. For all of it’s bravado though, the lyrics are quite romantic despite verging on creepy – “Cause there’s this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat, until I fall asleep, spilling drinks on my settee.” Somebody is the recipient of Turner’s affections, whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen.

Once the familiar ‘R U Mine?‘ erupts into life, it’s clear that Turner’s lust for this girl stems from a previous night of debauchery that he can’t forget. Another rocking number, ‘R U Mine?’ is ‘AM’s most blistering song, with ‘Arabella’s psychedelic heavy riffs, reminiscent of Black Sabbath’sWar Pigs‘,  a close second.

This isn’t just a riff-laden album though, such is ‘AM’s diversity and dynamic. Incorporating elements of R&B into songs like the infectious ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ reaffirms the band’s confidence, there’s almost a narcissism to their music when they’re this good.

Elsewhere, that American edge to their sound last seen in ‘Suck It And See’ emerges as ‘Fireside’ rides in to the desert (think Muse’s ‘City Of Delusion’), whilst Turner channels his inner Beatle with ‘Number 1 Party Anthem’ and the beautiful ‘Mad Sounds’, which boasts a tender-hearted “Oo La La La” moment.

Perhaps one of the Arctic’s most successful moments on ‘AM’ comes in the shape of ‘Snap Out Of It’, a jaunty Motown hit that longs for days past, when Alex’s girl was different – “Is forever for you? It sounds like settling down or giving up, but it don’t sound much like you girl.”

Album closer ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is essentially a John Cooper Clarke poem with a few magical touches and extras from Turner, who stamps his Yorkshire accent all over it. Both deeply heartfelt and quite disturbing, it’s a fitting end to what is a magnificent album.

‘AM’ won’t break the records or generate the hype that their debut made but it’s cohesion, diversity and unequivocally Brit-rock concept will see it right up there in the Arctic Monkeys’ career bests in decades to come.

4 out of 5 Stars. 

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