I have absolutely no doubt in claiming that the Arctic Monkeys have become one of the most important bands in the last decade , and ever since their debut in 2005 they have become synonymous with excellent British music. So my, and many others, expectations are high to say the least, but any worries that their fifth studio album AM may not reach them have been blown completely out of the water.
There’s no beating about the bush with Arctic Monkeys albums is there? The same applies to AM with ‘Do I wanna Know?’; this time round these guys have matured, you can tell by how subtly that riff and those vocals reel you in, but they’re still covering subjects we know and love them for. In the case of AM those months in LA have transformed them (mostly) into smooth sweet-talkers, rather than the unabashed straight-talking youths of Whatever you say I am that’s what I’m not. That’s not to say either form of the band is inferior to the other, both are unique and relatable to their audience in their own way, but it’s nice to see a band whole heartedly and successfully embrace different styles. This transition between albums really shines in fourth track (and possibly the best on the record) ‘Arabella’; which sounds as if the light-hearted ‘Reckless Serenade’ from previous record Suck it and See starred in a Hitchcock film. Frontman Turner lives out his fantasies with the mysterious Arabella, whether real or not, within a chorus that packs a seriously intense punch of awesome vocals and full-on guitar.
If it weren’t for their signature lyrics and the record’s undiluted themes, AM could almost have been made by an entirely different band. Songs like ‘Mad sounds’ very much show-case an all new LA influence on the Boys from Sheffield; Alex’s classy croon, the mellow comfort of the bass and a classic set of chords all serve to provide a slick 50’s and 60’s sound.
Whereas the hallucinatory wonder-trip ‘Why’d you only call me when you’re high?’; is a track that retains a sense of familiarity with its themes of youthful degradation and sexual intrigue, but delves into unexplored Monkey’s territory with its distinct R’n’B skin of heavy beats and funky guitar. The combination produces something incredible; that such a brave move can seduce me into re-winding the song back again and again reveals just how musically ingenious the Arctic Monkeys are. Penultimate track ‘Knee Socks’ also throws it’s line out in an entirely different direction, with an unusual dance vibe colouring the last minute or so. There’s even hints of Rap at times, with Turner’s quick-fire lyrics in ‘One for the Road’ being put against heavy percussion, and all of these moments really preach the lesson of AM; to expect the unexpected.
The only issue I can think of is that there’s this consistent organ-like feature in almost every song, particularly tracks like ‘One for the Road’ which eventually becomes slightly tedious and needless in certain incidences. Also ‘I Wanna be Yours’ remains a weak point in the album, further carrying on the tradition that they’ve been unable to finish a record as well as their debut. Yet these minor hiccups are almost completely overwhelmed by the sheer respect I feel for how the band how approached this new album, as it can be so easy to take to a seemingly obvious direction set by albums prior. But with AM the Arctic Monkeys throw caution to the wind and experiment with styles previously unexplored, include the smallest amount of material supported by legendary artists like Josh Homme and yet nail it all so wonderfully that you can’t but admire their gumption.
Released 6/8/13 on Domino