AM Album Review
Released September 6, 2013
Genre: Indie Rock, Garage Rock
English indie rock outfit Arctic Monkeys storm back onto the music scene with their 5th studio LP, AM.Throughout their years performing, the band has jumped from releasing amazing albums (Whatever People Think I Am, That’s What I’m Not) to somewhat disappointing (Suck It and See). However, they still remain as one of the most commanding British acts in history.
They first exploded onto the music scene with 2006’s, amazing, grand debut Whatever People Think I Am, That’s What I’m Not, a refreshing album that blended styles most commonly associated with The Strokes, The Libertines, The Clash and Franz Ferdinand. The collection of brash, buoyant and rough dance-rock anthems exploded becoming the fastest selling debut album in U.K. history. They continued to shine on their sophomore follow up, 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare, but fell a little short of sonic expectations with the release of 2009’s Humbug and, in my opinion slowed down ultimately with 2011’s Suck It and See. With AM, the band pick themselves up, diverging from the original formula using clever and somewhat amusing lyricism, catchy riffs and hooks and groovy beats.
The opening track, “Do I Wanna Know?”, (terrific song, terrific) was the first single off this album and gave fans a glimpse of what was to come. The song is led by an ominous, foreboding guitar riff and drummer Matt Helders singing in falsetto along with lead singer Alex Turner. Sadly, the drumming doesn’t have any energy like their previous works (“Brianstorm”) which remained a downer but overall great track for a daunting opening. “R U Mine?” blasts immediately right after, evoking something you might hear from a Jack White record and again another amazing, catchy riff. The drumming has great energy and it is a very fun track.
“One For The Road” is a bit experimental, very nice melodies and great appearance from Queens of the Stone Ages’ Josh Homme. The drumming again is very subdued and too simple for them so the track becomes some what enjoyable. “Arabella” is a blatant Black Sabbath imitation, recalling back to the iconic “War Pigs” except the track’s execution and riff is dull, choppy, and boring. The album then boasts an acoustic yet flaccid side (“Fireside”) and persistent hooks (“Snap Out Of It”), helping to give this album a varied experience for even the unseasoned listener.
However the startling and predictable shift from their initial style leaves an absent void in the hearts of devoted fans. One thing the album lacked was old rough, distorted, dirty guitar riffs, and rebellious, rude, witty lyrics; just in retrospect EVERYONE should and will miss the post-punk aspect of their earlier works. The explosive, brash attitude and style of their debut album refreshed the minds of many fans and music lovers alike. Later tracks such as “No. 1 Party Anthem” were a HUGE disappointment. What I expected was something like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” off their debut LP, but instead it’s a piano ballad and really NOT a “party anthem.”
Following that is “Mad Sounds” but even that doesn’t pick the energy up. It’s a solemn, tame ballad that’s slow, bluesy but not real fierce or explosive. Aside from the lackluster “Knee Socks”, the lyricism falls a bit flat on the track “I Wanna Be Yours” as Turner transposes the poem by John Cooper Clarke into a beautiful ode on love and commercialism. “Let me be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust” he croons as a slow and steady beat carries the song to a climaxing finish.
Ever seen Chronicle? That 2012 film of three teens who obtain super powers but inevitably lose control of it and eventually, well you watch it, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Anyway, just like the teens in the film, the Arctic Monkeys were capable of something brash but beautiful, explosive but pleasing: the raw, energetic, exciting post-punk vibe of their early works. But as the Monkeys progressed, grew up and matured their sound they started to gain more artistic control over their music. It became more contained, more controlled, less loud and less raw. What we loved about them was exactly what they were taking away ( Suck It and See is an excellent example). And just as the teenage super heroes of Chronicle controlled their power, things went awry and something of great worth was lost.
With this loss of rough, dirty hooks and punk attributes, the Monkeys have crafted something else with a very experimental blend of neo psychedelic, blues rock and garage rock mixed with hip-hop beats, the new Monkeys’ sound becomes something, not reminiscent of their old selves but still quite interesting. Although AM did have very bright spots and sweet catchy, hook driven tunes, there is still something missing from the Monkeys’ sound evident from the tame, soft and translucent weak tracks. The Monkeys need to revisit the past artistically and stylistically if they want to keep their fans interested in order to progress into their own musical future, one where they’re still “the young Northern England clubbers” that we all know and love. “Snap Out Of It” guys.
PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Do I Wanna Know?, R U Mine?, One For The Road, Snap Out Of It
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Arabella, Fireside, Knee Socks