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Arctic Monkeys - AM (Album Review)

Monday, 09 September 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

The last year has seen the Arctic Monkeys continue their meteoric rise to super stardom. From performing at the London Olympic opening ceremony in 2012 to headlining this year’s Glastonbury Festival via the release of a couple of top drawer singles, they have remained firmly in the public eye.

Recorded in California, ‘AM’ – their 5th studio album – has been described by drummer Matt Helders as being the album the band had always been waiting to make, and vocalist/guitarist Alex Turner has made it clear that the band are very excited about the record.  Released in the month prior to several sold-out UK arena shows, ‘AM’ has been preceded by 2012’s single R U Mine? and second single Do I Wanna Know?, both of which have been heralded as masterpieces. 

R U Mine? gave a first glimpse into Turner’s latest lyrical well and how the band have progressed in leaps and bounds from when, as internet sensations, they burst onto the scene in 2006 with the fastest selling debut album in British music history, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.  Turner has stated that for this album he struggled with the songwriting process somewhat, and there are numerous examples of the lyrics here being clearly unlike the sort of well-worn verses that have been over used in the past.

‘AM’ opens with the foot-stomping, knee-slapping intro of Do I Wanna Know? - with that now very distinct Jamie Cook slow burning guitar riff taking centre stage alongside falsetto backing vocals and Turner’s masterful lyricism.  Before you can catch your breath, R U Mine? picks up the gauntlet with its Black Sabbath-esque riffing coupled with a glimpse into that lyrical myriad with lines such as “she’s a silver lining lone ranger riding through an open space in my mind”.

One For The Road is next up, a slow plodding number that is structured around more falsetto backing vocals courtesy of Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley.  It sounds quite unlike the sound associated with the Arctics, with the slower funky beat almost touching G-Funk.  More supreme guitar work adorns the piece before it leads seamlessly into another slow number, the dirty, bass heavy, crunchy genius of Arabella.  The Sabbath riffing is taken further and at times recalls War Pigs from seminal album ‘Paranoid’; this is married with intricate guitar work and atmospheric synths to continue the superb start to the album. 

Arabella in particular recalls the stoner rock influence of Josh Homme’s Queens Of The Stone Age; the boys from Sheffield were first involved with Homme for 2009’s Humbug (which can now be clearly seen as a stepping stone to AM) and Homme appears here on a couple of tracks offering backing vocals after Turner had made contributions to the last QOTSA album.

I Want It All is again built around a heavy, climbing guitar riff and falsetto vocals, with handclapping/finger clicking supplementing the less prevalent percussion. No.1 Party Anthem contradicts its title by being a surprisingly slower, ballad-y number leading into another slowie, Mad Sounds - again an almost seamless manoeuvre.

The impressive Fireside picks up the pace with its pummelling percussion and organ backing track, telling the tale of trying to admit a relationship is dead.  Latest single Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? follows, with its almost hip-hop beats complemented by more guitar intricacy and lyrical genius.

The spritely Snap Out Of It tells about grabbing someone’s shoulders and shaking them “out of it” as more relationship woes come to the fore; Knee Socks recalls Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner in slow motion with its melody performed by Lowe’s guitar, alongside prominent, remarkable falsetto vocals that help deliver the song’s conclusion.  Album closer I Wanna Be Yours is another lyrical masterpiece, albeit this time not courtesy of Turner: the words are based upon a poem written by John Cooper Clarke in the 1980’s, with such lines as “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust, I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I’ll never rust” putting Turner’s lyrical progression in perspective alongside a ‘real’ poet.

One of the most eagerly awaited albums of the year, AM delivers a telling tale of a band’s evolution; from those early ‘indie rock’ days to now, the Arctics have travelled one hell of a journey, and they now appear to be defining their own sub-genre which is a mix of many different styles influenced from Dr Dre to John Lennon.  The result is that the band have become a phenomenon, with that intangible confidence that Alex Turner oozes seemingly propelling the band into the stratosphere that only bands like Radiohead have ever reached in the modern era: where they go from here will be fascinating.

Arctic Monkeys UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Tue October 22nd 2013 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Metro Radio Arena
Wed October 23rd 2013 - MANCHESTER Manchester Arena
Fri October 25th 2013 - LONDON Earls Court
Sat October 26th 2013 - LONDON Earls Court
Mon October 28th 2013 - LIVERPOOL Echo Arena
Tue October 29th 2013 - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Thu October 31st 2013 - BIRMINGHAM LG Arena
Fri November 1st 2013 - GLASGOW Hydro
Sat November 2nd 2013 - SHEFFIELD Motorpoint Arena Sheffield

Click Here to Compare & Buy Arctic Monkeys Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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