Where: Domino Records
I don’t know about you but it seems that the hype surrounding the return of Arctic Monkeys was something unlike their previous returns to the music industry. Since playing an astonishing headlining performance at Glastonbury it seemed like normalcy to refer to “that gig” as one of the greatest things ever seen, and so with new album AM, it’s like we’re seeing the return of gods or something.
We first heard the sounds of singles “R U Mine?” and “Do I Wanna Know?” which apart from the perpetual confusion also brought upon a new found confidence and attitude in the Monkeys’ sound. The boys said they’d experimented with some RnB elements but these two singles both sounded like usual heavy AM material, maybe just with a little extra room for hips to wiggle. But even this strong start to the record couldn’t get us ready for what was to come.
“One For The Road” leads us to a journey into Arctic Monkeys’ time with RnB and with it’s subtle instrumentation mainly guided by a creeping bass line and vocal harmonies aplenty, this track basically sets the tone for the rest of AM. The echoed roars of guitars remind us that this is a record from a rock band, but the only thing keeping this new sound firmly grounded to the roots is the contributing guitar solo from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme.
“Arabella” does feature a bit of a rip off of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs but for a rock album something as universally recognisable as that riff is needed by this point. Not to say the record is slipping down the hype fulfilment pipe; the subtle instrumentation does bring a lot of groove and rhythm to the table, and obviously Alex Turner’s consistently high standard of lyricism helps too. “Arabella” is a great tune, and leads right into “I Want It All”, arguably the best album cut on the record. The track’s sliding guitar riff and rolling drum beat is immediately engaging on the ear and the dual vocals help contribute to the ever increasing momentum it seems to generate. The guitar solo is also very good, and we finally have our first proper rock song.
AM’s topic of choice seems to be the act of lust, love and anything to do with appreciating the human body. As to be expected from an Arctic Monkeys record there’s a lot of great lyrics and lines spread throughout, many of which I expect to see on Tumblr in a matter of days. “No.1 Party Anthem” is an ironic take as it’s clearly not intended for the dancefloor but merely for two people who are in love and are experiencing a moment of togetherness, which for many people is something they desire most in life. It’s a very nice and intimate song that could easily detail anybody’s experience in relationships.
Third single “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” perfectly balances the new holier-than-thou position of the band with their old school tactics of referring to certain situations anyone could relate to. It also sets off a quartet of brilliant songs as “Snap Out Of It” and “Knee Socks” bring an undeniably sexy groove to the back end of the record and finally “I Wanna Be Yours” closes in a way that stays true to the rest of the album: performing previously unheard of territory alongside the simplest, most profound lyrics about love to project a desire to once again be somebody’s somebody, even if that means becoming a Ford Courteener.
AM is a record that firmly shows Arctic Monkeys are confident enough to proudly show off their want to change their sound. I think since the Humbug days people have continued to remain iffy on Josh Homme’s influence on the band over the last few years, but as the QOTSA frontman proves from simply providing an audible yell on “Knee Socks”, that one yell against a girl group-esque vocal breakdown shows that Arctic Monkeys are at the point where they can get away from doing that and we’ll still look at them as gods. Something that would never have happened without Homme’s help.