With every band there will be those fans who cling onto the bands past doings, digging their nails deep into a certain page in the bands history book, holding no room for change or alteration of that memory. You can’t be one of those if you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan. You just can’t. But with two instantly successful albums with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not & Favourite Worst Nightmare, you will always have fans whose necks are permanently craned backwards. That’s fine. Arctic Monkeys are moving right past you, with slicked back hair, leather jackets, all while riding on motorcycles and in convertibles, with your girl by their side. Every step they take is a new exploration, a new passion, a new feeling. You can either get on board, or hang on to the past.
Arctic Monkeys have evolved tremendously from the young band that first graced the world at breakneck speed. I was a young foolish teenager when Whatever People Say I Am was released. 15 years old, to be exact. A lot has changed since that album was released, including this little blog your reading here. So it’s an understatement to say that this band has had an impact on my life, as they have on countless others. If you’re reading this right now you’re probably one of those people. They’ve become my go to band because I can always count on them to release an album different than the last. A new exploration, a new avenue, a new series of memories of that point in my life that I will forever associate with the album. AM opens another chapter not only for me, but for Arctic Monkeys. I’m always changing, and it’s comforting to see my favorite band evolve with me.
Our first taste of this new era came last year when they randomly dropped a new single out of the blue, to the expectations of no one. That single was of course, “R U Mine?” and it delivered a punch in a new way that we had yet to experience from the Sheffield lads. It’s music video showed the band furiously jamming out in a car, a perfect setting for this song that just demanded a drive in the night to accompany its thrilling vision. It was our first taste of this new L.A. version of the band, and it was not the last of it. This attitude and atmosphere became a working basis for the bands new direction, which we now know as AM.
It’s been said that AM is the album that Arctic Monkeys always wanted to make, and it shows. AM sounds like a record that they had fun making. It explores all kinds of genres and sounds, for the first time truly collecting all the avenues of inspiration that have influenced them as a band. There’s not many albums where you can finds traces of Black Sabbath, Dr. Dre, John Lennon, Outkast, and The Velvet Underground. AM is this album.
AM starts with the thunderous stomp of “Do I Wanna Know?” a confident track bristling with a sexiness that was new for the band, but it was something that would trickle down through the rest of the record. You’ll quickly notice that this record features lots of falsettos from drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley. They’ve always been around for some backup vocals, but never in this way. A good chunk of the record features the high pitched notes of Helders, more so then ever before. Just check out “One For The Road” sludgy goodness with a hip-hop influence evident in its beat. Or “I Wanna Be Yours”, the love yearning closer that Turner quotes from a John Cooper Clarke poem with the r&b sparkle of Aaliyah. Helders presence is always there, leaving all the dots connected.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of rock and roll going on. “Arabella” channels the finest moments of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” with a hard hitting style that is sure to decimate faces live. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” straddles a mix of rock and r&b with a cool, sultry vocal delivery from Turner seeing him fight his late night urges. “Snap Out Of It” is a sultry track that just begs you to sing along as your bopping to its unshakeable beat. These are songs that you could picture yourself taking in drunkenly at a party while wildly making out.
It’s too hard and far too early to pick a definite favorite. But the middle run of AM is easily one of the strongest 1-2-3 punches on any Arctic Monkeys album. The misleading titled “No. 1 Party Anthem” is a wondrous track that would have been right at home on Turner’s magnificent Submarine Soundtrack EP (as well on a John Lennon album). It’s an epic track that should be played side by side with “Secret Door”, ready to sweep you blindly off the floor. Right after it is “Mad Sounds”, a track that plays in the same ballpark as some of the groovier Velvet Underground tracks. It just floats off into a happy terrain that is hopeful and magnetic in its ability to bring so many good vibes. Then you have “Fireside” a mesmerizer with a deep heavy funk of a bassline that features Turner’s most stunning vocal delivery on the album. It also includes plenty of “Shoo–Wop“‘s during its backing vocals to make it stand out. Or how about “Knee Socks”, arguably the catchiest track on AM, featuring Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme on vocals. The final bridge of the song takes his vocals and throws you deep down the rabbit hole the point where all you can do is hit play and gear up to journey right back down again.
Is AM the best Arctic Monkeys album? I don’t think so, but that’s not for me to decide. The beautiful thing about this band, is literally every album can be, and is, someones favorite. The amazing thing about AM is that even though in many ways its a departure of their sound into r&b and other territories, it’s still very much Arctic Monkeys. When you have a band that constantly evolves and changes, but finds a way to stay true to themselves, you have the power to make a new fan with every release. Their mark is felt. AM is an album that grabbed me at first, but still found ways to grow on me with every listen. There’s little details, little hand claps or vocals that you may miss the first time. But keep listening, because it’s too good of an album not to be appreciated just because it’s not the album you wanted. It’s the album Arctic Monkeys wanted to do, and sometimes that’s more important than anything else. They delivered on the promise of “R U Mine?” and did so much more than I could have ever expected.
It’s been 7 years since they’ve released their debut album. In that time they’ve released 5 albums, a great deal of EP’s singles, as well as a few Alex Turner side projects. The amount of success that this band have had in such a short span of time makes me proud to not only be an Arctic Monkeys fan, but a fan of music. It’s a tetament in my belief in them so long ago. I believed the hype, and the band haven’t let me down since. AM is just another wonderful chapter in the Arctic Monkeys story, one that will continue to take us places that we could never expect or foresee. But for now, lets live in the moment, and enjoy AM as it is. Because in a few years when they release their next release, and take another new step towards a new direction, a great deal of people will reminisce about the days when AM came out. That’s just the power of Arctic Monkeys.