Album Review: “AM” by Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since their 2006 debut album of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” with five BRIT Award wins, two Grammy Award nominations and several headlining slots at global music festivals under their belt, just to mention a few of their many accolades. They’ve grown from their humble roots in Sheffield, England to become a global success, and with this, their sound has both expanded and developed, too. Their much-anticipated new album “AM” continues to follow this trend; very few traces are left of the quintessential British indie rock that Arctic Monkeys personified on their first two albums.
Two of the tracks on “AM” have been released as singles thus far. In the first single, “R U Mine?,” we hear a stronger sense of continuation from the rock-ier style of their previous album, “Suck It and See,” than in the majority of “AM.” The guitar riffs are prevalent, and lead singer Alex Turner shows his vocal range with the accompanying falsetto harmony. Their second single release, “Do I Wanna Know?,” moves at a slower pace but, after a few listens, is surprisingly catchy. As with the whole album, this track perfectly displays Turner’s lyrics, which are gritty, stark and innuendo-filled as they consistently have been throughout the band’s history. Relatable lyrics are one of Arctic Monkeys’ major advantages. They make no nuances about the typical situations one might encounter on an often messy night out; as they admit in “Do I Wanna Know?,” these “nights were mainly made for saying things that you can’t say tomorrow day.”
One of the album’s standout tracks is the psychedelic “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” which Turner himself said had been influenced by Dr. Dre; when you hear the beat, you can easily make the connection. This track epitomizes the departure that Arctic Monkeys have taken from their preceding work.
Overall, this is yet another brilliant and mainly solid album from the Arctic Monkeys. Nevertheless, it does at times seem a little like a halfway house between one sound and the next; on one hand we hear stray reminisces of their previous two albums, which had a strong hard rock influence, and then there are songs like “Knee Socks” that are a clear departure from the group’s last album and have an exciting new depth to them. However, for many of the songs that lie in the middle of that range, the album feels like it lags a bit. It’s as if we’re waiting for them to fully step up to the next level that they don’t always reach quite convincingly enough. Nevertheless, “AM” still contains all the hazy rock, rhythm-and-blues-infused clout and intrigue to be a standout album of the year, which is reflected by its recent Mercury Prize nomination. It seems accurate to think of the evolution of Arctic Monkeys’ sound as a journey along a winding road, one on which we can travel beside them, eagerly discovering what lies around the next corner, rather than the journey of a band whose style abruptly U-turns to the listener’s dismay.