By Jake Ebdale
Released September 6th, 2013 - EMI
I'll say this now - AM is Arctic Monkeys' first great record. I use that term strongly. It's the first time a 'plan' hasn't preceded and tainted one of their albums. I suppose it's hard to forget just how game changing their debut was back in 2006, or how the NME pedalled the hype bicycle to the guitar starved masses for their second. These days, a bands fifth album is so dialed in that I could write this review mowing the lawn (I could do it for Kings of Leon's sixth),but flick away that initial hype fluff and Arctic Monkeys have surpassed their peers, crafted a distinct sound, and in the process sound assured, grown up - hell, they're rock stars on AM. They had to get there eventually.
The music industry has seen these wry, pimply kids from Sheffield develop over the last 7 years, creating quite an interesting legacy: frantic, heavy and melodic, they've made a not so fair-weather friend in QOTSAhoncho Josh Homme too. He's been involved since Humbug, (which has remarkably improved with age) and his influence shows. It's ironic then that the boys have somewhat out-Queened the Queens - especially on marching, sexy opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?'. Probably their greatest album opener yet.
Alex Turner is the star of the show, but the fellow members have developed a captivating, hip hop based groove that fattens the previously thin Monkeys sound. The "Turner-turn of phrase" is so captivating, so sardonic; you need to hear the words repeatedly to peel the layers off. ‘Arabella' is a bastardized bit of Sabbath pop, whereas ‘Number 1 Party Anthem' and ‘Fireside' are intricate songs that stress the side-streets of love, a theme explored in earlier favourites ‘Cornerstone' and ‘Hellcat Spangled Shalala'.
The most remarkable thing about AM is that the tender moments are interspersed with straight party songs, stuff that Turner wanted to blast in his car at full volume. Boasted influences of Dr. Dre and Aaliyah have morphed the melodies and birthed an amalgamation, a mind fuck of sound. ‘Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?' is an example - an outrageous title and video that shows a coiffed Turner stumbling around as he hallucinates - all based on a punchy riff and beat. ‘Knee Socks' is warbly, gender hopping weirdness, pulled off without a hitch.
The boys completely embrace their rock star status on AM; as it turns out, this was the right path to strut down. If you watch their blistering headlining set at Glastonbury 2013, you will see a reinvigorated band - confident and hungry. They don't take themselves seriously, and they don't take their hard earned audience for granted either. If you haven't considered Arctic Monkeys, get into this album. Go back and analyse the rest. They're a breath of fresh air.
4 / 5