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Album Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

I guess it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to admit to you that I am a huge Arctic Monkeys fan. Of course who isn’t? Since their debut in 2006, Arctic Monkeys have been a key soundtrack to the pivotal moments in my life. There has never been a better band to grow up to, as the generational topics featured in the lyricism of Alex Turner struck a chord with us. Who was this man singing about egotistical bouncers, dodgy drunken choices, and doomed relationships?

Hell, even my choice of university was based on where my favourite band hailed from. Impeccable logic on my part there. Luckily for me, Sheffield is an amazing city. Imagine if they came from Scunthorpe. Over time, their sound developed and matured. From Favourite Worse Nightmare to Humbug, a significant change was felt. From boys to men, progressing from raw talent to proper, accomplished rock ‘n’ rollers. Every record is a whole new venture, marked by a different approach, and yet their ability to develop new sounds but still sound like Arctic Monkeys is a rare gift, in a time where many other bands struggle to develop without destroying their basic foundations. AM, the band’s fifth album shows no signs of the boys faltering just yet.

Recorded in the Californian desert, smooth R&B seductiveness can be heard on the album. It’s soulful and at times steamy- in the good, sexy kind of way. ‘Do I Wanna Know’, the lead single from the album is the perfect opener, setting the mood for the rest of the album. The solid beat of the drum machine; the imposing, memorable riff accompanied by Turner’s words of forlorn love is what some may describe as textbook. ‘One For The Road is a standout with its sultry, chorus melody, ‘I’ve been wondering whether later when you tell everyone to go, will you pour me one for the road?’ whilst ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’, is a mellow, crooner ballad encompassing all those flirtatious advances. Trying to get lucky in a nightclub has never sounded more romantic.

Alex Turner is the best he has ever been on AM. Lyrically, his words are wiser and more focused, whilst still featuring those dry, witty one-liners and staple tongue-in-cheek references. This is an album focused on relationships, love and sex; yet it never feels like a cliché. Vocally, his ability to weave his elongated words into melodies on tracks such as ‘Arabella’ display a talent that few possess. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High’ – aka the catchiest tune of the year – is a track where the direct influence of hip hop cannot be more clearly heard. As a tale depicting a young man, whose early morning communications with a girl have left her feeling somewhat used that he’s only after her when intoxicated, it is no surprise that Turner has said himself it is a song which wouldn’t have been out of place lyrically on Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.  ‘Snap Out Of It’ is an infectious, motown tinged sing-along, while ‘Knee Socks has a falsetto breakdown, two tracks that certainly prove Arctic Monkeys transcend all genres. They don’t want to be defined, nor do they ask to be. The record’s finale, ‘I Wanna Be Yours, a poem written by the legendary punk poet John Cooper Clarke, is transformed into a striking love song. Despite the words belonging to someone else, the re-rendering of this poem shows Turner’s ability to create a masterpiece of a song from the most obscure places.

Arctic Monkeys have a body of work to be proud of. Every album, every single and even b-side is meticulously crafted, continuously pushing the envelope. This is a band that will continue to experiment, and they’re not afraid to do so. With Alex Turner at the helm, they have no reason to be. No matter what happens or where they go from here, Arctic Monkeys have already proven themselves to be one of the best British bands to have ever graced our airwaves.

- Clare Povey

AM is available now on Domino. You can order it here.



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