Alex Turner and his Arctic Monkeys disembark off of their thundering hype-train with their fifth effort AM – but is it actually any good?
Well, to put it simply, yes. It’s fucking fantastic. There isn’t a single dud note to be found on the whole record. The entire audible experience, particularly during the first half of the album, has Turner and Co showing off a far more sinister, sexual and brooding side to the band – full of glimmeringly intense, glaring riffs and jabbing falsetto vocals. With its accusatory lyrics, AM frequently sounds like front man Alex Turner wants to have ruddy-hot sex with you many, many times – especially on tracks such as Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? Also, with its plodding, punchy bass pounding into your cranium, the tempo to AM is certainly far less riotous in sections than the bands dance floor-bound debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, (Do I Wanna Know? and One For The Road are great examples of this) and it makes for an all the more taunting, refined and dominating sound.
Alex Turner once again proves himself as arguably the greatest living lyricist in a rock band today. The best song on the album, Do I Wanna Know?, is lyrically perfect – nowhere on the album do the lyrics come near to matching it. “Have you got colour in your cheeks? Do you ever get that fear that you can’t shift the type that sticks around like something in your teeth?” Turner says before later adding: “So have you got the guts? Been wondering if your heart’s still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts”. The lyrics unfurl, rumble and vibrate along at a surly pace. If I was a lady and could sit on these lyrics – I would like them very much. I would love to quote you the song in its entirety – it’s outstanding and beautiful and I love it.
I don’t usually comment on backing vocals, but it must be said, the backing vocals on AM are nothing short of sublime. The “ooh la la la’s” on Mad Sounds are just downright beautiful and the “Shoo wa wap’s” on Fireside are utterly delicious. Even the Herculean Josh Homme features, his soaring vocals screeching all over the background of Knee Socks. It’s brilliant.
However, I do have a problem with AM. It is undoubtedly excellent, but disappointingly, the best songs have already been released as singles. Don’t get me wrong, there are some real gems to be found on the record. For instance, If there was ever a song to grab your mates by the waist and sway to after consuming copious amounts of alcohol – it’s the GENIUS No. 1 Party Anthem. Uber-confident and strutting proudly, Knee Socks and One For The Road certainly come close to the stratospheric heights of Do I Wanna Know? – but sadly don’t exceed it. Do I Wanna Know? opens the album and is then followed by other single R U Mine?- and I just didn’t think that the album ever bettered these initial tunes. And that’s a real shame.
But, with an album this stunning, it would be wrong to be too disappointed. AM is forty two-odd minutes of evidence to the further evolution of Arctic Monkey’s sound and their continuing ascension into the golden pantheon of rock legends. Gone for good are the manic, rabble-rousing dace floor fillers from their first two albums and it does beg the question – are Arctic Monkeys even an Indie band anymore? I am certain that this game-changing new direction is going to put people off. However, AM is undeniably brilliant. Arctic Monkeys have deservedly cemented themselves as one of the best rock bands of this century. I can’t wait to see what’s next.