This week Arctic Monkeys made British Chart history by becoming the UK’s first ‘indie’ band to have five consecutive number 1 albums. A tremendous feat for an ‘indie’ band – the only problem being that the Arctic Monkeys are in no way ‘indie.’ Granted, they began as the MySpace sensation and the first number 1 single of the Digital Age, but the lads from Sheffield have managed, over the course of their near-decade long careers, to transcend the idea of genre. They have created their own crux in the music industry by striking a perfect balance between a signature sound and musical growth. 2006′s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not provided a gritty, bombastic and raw slice of British youth that resonated, making it the fastest selling debut album in the UK.
Since then, each of the Monkeys’ albums have matured insound – going from a group of talented lads mucking around in their parents’ garage, to being the closest thing our generation will come to The Beatles. The band’s new Mercury nominated album AM is a culmination of their artistic growth, and transports the listener to different areas of Turner’s psyche: whether that be the cosmic genius of Arbella or the finger-clicking thump of Snap Out of It. Here’s a track-by-track review:
1. ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ The album’s lead single (if we exclude R U Mine) sets AM’s atmospheric mood with the brooding riffs and seductive lyrics. The song manages to provide numerous climaxes: the bridge builds up to the insanely catchy and deep chorus, which is further enhanced with the tight backing vocals. This song sounds like the Black Keys’ evil twin brother. The video highlights the feelings of inner darkness, looking like a James Bond intro on acid. The unusual phrasing of the verses allow Turner to demonstrate his full lyrical genius – “simmer down and pucker up, I’m sorry to interrupt it’s just I’m constantly on the cusp of trying to kiss you.” This is a dark love song about desire and lust.
2. ‘R U Mine?’ Originally released in February 2012, this song is better as a stand-alone than most bands’ entire albums. An unofficial prequel to Do I Wanna Know?, this modern classic captures high energy of ‘the chase’ with impeccable guitar inflections and riffs. The infectious chorus appeals to everyone’s mindset when in the middle of a hypnotic infatuation. If R U Mine? is the night out, Do I Wanna Know? is the more regretful and dark hangover.
3. ‘One For The Road’ chronicles the after-party that you don’t want to leave, with the girl you’ve imagined going home with endless times. The band capture the melancholy of the end of a night out perfectly – the night that you never want to end. The creeping guitar riffs increase like the inexorability of daylight. One of the album’s strongest tracks, a laid-back anthem that flickers with a subtle intensity.
4. ‘Arabella’ is an ode to Turner’s girlfriend that describes her so poetically it makes you sad you’ll never meet her. His cosmic lyrics portray Arabella as this other-worldy being that eclipses even the horizon. The song is so vivid that it allows the listening to imagine Arabella as a all encompassing Tarantino heroine. Turner’s lyrical prowess is displayed fully here.
5. ‘I Want It All’ is a mid-tempo track with Led Zeppelin-like guitars and tight-knit harmonies that provide an interesting contrast. The backing vocals are teamed seamlessly here with Turner’s lead.
6. ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ is a track that sounds immediately nostalgic, and captures the end of the night blues, regret and the looming comedown. ‘Call off the search for your soul, or put it on hold again’ – drunken soul searching and the idea of repetitive weekends and the constant need to seize the moment, even though it’s all a blur anyway.
7. ‘Mad Sounds’ Turner effortlessly croons over this subtlety dream-like ballad. This makes me think of a Breaking Bad desert-scape, with a 90′s Oasis twist.
8. ‘Fireside’ This is the band’s version of a break-up song, with a tumbling base contrasted with an almost western sounding guitar, giving the feeling on being on the run. Brooding in the background is a haunting organ that gives the song a creepy and regretful edge – highlighted with Turner’s poignant lyrics: ‘There’s all these secrets I can’t keep, like in my heart there’s that hotel suite.’
9. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ Back to full-blown hangover, checking your call list. Turner integrates hip-hop elements into this song (he previously listed Dr Dre as an influence for AM) and pairs them with haunting guitar inflections that creepy in like cringe-worthy memories from the night before.
10. ‘Snap Out of It‘ A definite stand-out track, here the band go glam-rock with Elton John-like piano chords and a beat that sounds like rock infused Motown. Again, cohesive backing vocals enhance the track, which will no doubt be a live fan favourite.
11. ‘Knee Socks’ Another stand-out track. The flickering drum beats and psychedelic John Homme aided guitars weave seamlessly with the band’s vocals. The lyrics are again a poetic ode to female appreciation, with attention to detail that makes the image even more vivid. The third bridge harmonies is the highlight of the song.
12. ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ is a beautiful interpretation of punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Again, seeping with melancholic nostalgia and deep yearning for love; this song is a true testament to the band’s talent and ability to marry lyrics and sound seamlessly to create a truly euphoric listening experience.
This is one of those rare albums that improves with every listen, and when appreciated as a whole the listener can fully understand the journey of love throughout. AM appears to document the highs and lows of ‘the chase’ – from the blissfully unaware ode that is Arabella, to the drunken mistake in High; Turner seems to come full circle by the beautifully poignant I Wanna Be Yours, fully accepting and infusing his want for love and lust and willing to accept someone entirely.
As you can see with our earlier review, we gave this album 4.5/ 5 stars.
We are currently seeking Music contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Music contributor, click here.