It’s been a few months short of eight years since their first album thrust them rapidly into the depths of popularity, and Arctic Monkeys find themselves in a position that many of the greatest bands of all-time have shared. They find themselves in a place where no genre or expectation can define their music. From one album to the next, the Sheffield lads continue to evolve, re-establish and define their unique take on rock and roll. It’s almost hard to believe that here in 2013, we find ourselves listening to a new incarnation from the Arctics that is completely incomparable to their debut album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am…’
I suppose the word incomparable suggests a sense of negativity, when in fact I intend the exact opposite. Arctic Monkeys are gradually establishing themselves among the all-time greats, who can go from one sound to another seamlessly and with almost guaranteed success – perhaps one day in the future, they will stand proud on the pedestal once owned by bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In fact, there’s a nice sort of symmetry in that image, considering they shared the headlining spot at Glastonbury this year with the latter.
So with all of this in mind, what comes of their latest release? The ambiguously titled ‘AM’ has once again reinvented the sound of Arctic Monkeys with great success. And little else could be expected really, considering the fact that the powerful, corker of a track ‘R U Mine?’, released on Record Store Day 2012, was such a huge success and an inkling towards the future sound of the band.
‘Do I Wanna Know?’, the second release of the album and first in line on the record itself, followed the same sort of riffy grit and foot stomping goodness that ‘R U Mine?’ demonstrated over a year ago. When the track listing was released, it felt like a somewhat precarious choice throwing these two tracks in side by side but with a sigh of relief, it was a wise choice which laid a solid foundation for the remainder of the album.
The next instalment ‘One For The Road’ certainly has the ability to turn a few heads upon hearing the opening vocals, featuring Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Once into the nitty gritty though, the song greets you with a strong, addictive bass line and vocals from Turner that alternate between the conventions of indie and hip-hop. ‘Arabella’ screams rock and roll anthem from its very core, with a riff that implies a classic AC/DC, Black Sabbath kind of atmosphere. It’s lyrically astute and instantly memorable, while ‘I Want It All’ has more of a contemporary rock feel that’s more Queens of the Stone Age, which again features a killer riff and some delightful ‘shoo wop’s that set it off from any previous material from the Monkeys. First ballad of the album ‘No.1 Party Anthem’ is very reflective of Turner’s solo work from the soundtrack to ‘Submarine’ but has the Arctics edge and that classic rock sensation that you know will stick with you for years.
Entering into the second half of the album, we’re given ‘Mad Sounds’ (in our ears). With words borrowed from a tune by Alan Smyth – who was significant in the initial recording of Arctic Monkeys’ demos – it’s a simple enough song with again some precious ‘ooh la la la’s in there that I think give this record a really consistent feel. ‘Fireside’, my personal favourite, has an incredibly infectious beat and an instantly lovable sound. I think I’m a sucker for the backing vocals on this album, as there’s something about the ‘shoo wop do wop’ in the backing vocals of the chorus that forces me to sing along to wherever I go.
On to single number three, ‘Why’d You Only Call me When You’re High?’ is very R&B by the nature of its drum beat to which I give kudos to Matt Helders for his immense variety in drumming style. Again, this song displays the lyrical genius of Turner at work; his eye for an anecdotal lyric is really quite phenomenal. ‘Snap Out Of It’ is another catchy little ditty that has anyone in a 100m radius repeating the backing vocals whether they like it or not. If you can listen to this song without at least whispering ‘snap ouuut of it’ then you’re a most disciplined human being than I. The penultimate track is definitely the least remarkable of the album although don’t let that put you off. Another pop/R&B influenced song, you’ll find towards the end a wonderfully Destiny’s Child, girl band-esque section which, rather oddly, fits in effortlessly. As we approach the close, ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is a beautiful love ballad that is slick and haunting, lending words from punk-poet John Cooper Clarke. The adapted words capture the endearing simplicity that Arctic Monkeys have been known for since their origins which I think is an impeccable way to see off ‘AM’.
When you think of the days when Arctic Monkeys were fresh faced, northern youths who sung about the highs and lows of life as a teen, it’s nice to reflect and see just how far they’ve progressed. While their albums have morphed and progressed one by one, there’s still dominance in their charm and wit despite their musical advances. While they go from strength to strength, it’s near impossible to predict what is next for Arctic Monkeys. All that’s certain is that they shan’t disappoint and the future for this band is an exciting, unforeseeable prospect.