Album Reviews

Arctic Monkeys – “AM” (REVIEW) 2013

Arguably the most anticipated rock album of 2013 (with the exception of maybe Nine Inch Nails… although I haven’t heard nearly as much fanfare over NIN), Arctic Monkeys are about to drop their 5th studio album AM on September 10th (US).

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why this record is stirring so much talk is the insanely awesome 2012 single “R U Mine” that is included on AM‘s track list. If you’ve followed the trajectory of the Arctic Monkeys, you’ve seen a shift in style. They started as a poppy/punkish band from Sheffield (with some serious writing skills/potential) and morphed into a brooding, Josh Homme-influenced desert-y post-punk act… trading their upbeat grooves for heavy content and moodiness.

With the upcoming AM, the groove is back… but in a more confident rockstar manner.

Leading off with “Do I Wanna Know?”, the album sets a tone of steady head-bobbing at a self-reflective energy level. You’ll be singing this one in your head for a while, if you haven’t been already.

“R U Mine?” is next (which I don’t need to go into… it was my pick last year for theFIVE10’s “coolest track of 2012”), followed by a beat-heavy list of tunes which all share the same attitude. I don’t know what happened in the off-season, but Alex Turner & Co. sure changed something about the way they approach their music.

What you’ll notice about this record is that it’s all mid-tempo. It very much has a theme to it. “One For the Road” starts off as almost pop, with falsetto backing vocals, drum & bass driven, and fast lyricism by Turner. “Arabella”… classic rock, tapping hi-hat and crunch riffs that remind me of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath… again, mostly bass & drums until the chorus.

“I Want It All” sounds like a Josh Homme collaboration if I ever heard one. I don’t know if it is, but I do know he contributed to this release. It’s a little more reminiscent of the Monkey’s previous record.

“No. 1 Party Anthem” is about as opposite of it’s title as could be. Slow, piano-driven ballad… with a hint of Bowie or Elton John. “Mad Sounds” keeps the energy low with a sort of southern twang. Then we launch into the driving rhythm of “Fireside”. This track features some cool bass work and a synth that reminds me of something a bit 80’s.

On to the hip-hop, Dr. Dre-ish “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”.  “Snap Out of It” is a bit Beatles/Sergeant Pepper feeling. Or Noel Gallagher. Catchy as hell.

“Knee Socks” is a layered, groovy tune, with a ton of falsetto backing vocals (a theme here on AM). Nothing I’ve ever heard from the Arctic Monkeys before, really. The bridge has backing vocals that wouldn’t surprise me if they were meant for a Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake track. Seriously.

I have to say, “R U Mine?” is still the best song in this collection. Which doesn’t surprise me… I think it’s the best song they’ve ever written, and better than many bands ever write. That’s a tall order to follow.

Bottom Line: On AM, don’t expect the intensity of Favourite Worst Nightmare. Think more Humbug, but with a lighter attitude and thicker beats & riffs. It surely won’t rock your socks off, but it will keep your head bobbing for about 45 minutes. All that being said, it’s the Arctic Monkey’s most intriguing and attitude-y batch of songs since 2007.

Rating: 8.5/10

Highlight tracks: “R U Mine?”, “Do I Wanna Know?”, “Knee Socks”, “One For the Road”

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