To say that it’s been tough for Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys to shake off the comparisons to their 2005 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, is an understatement. The album was a battering ram that knocked down the door of modern music and changed it completely, with Alex Turner’s demanding dialect that delivered lyrics that painted a vivid commentary on British night life. Since then, the Arctic Monkeys have strayed away from their signature sound, with 2009’s Humbug polarising fans after adopting more of a psychedelic sound.
The quick witted ‘R U Mine’ was the first taster of AM. Released early last year, we saw a return of the up-tempo angst and energy of the band’s debut combined with Alex Turner’s animated vocal delivery. ‘Arabella’ is a stand out track which begins with the bass driven smoothness of a Dr. Dre track before switching things up with a breakdown leading up to the chorus that would fit in perfectly on a Black Sabbath record.
‘Number 1 Party Anthem’ feels more like a knock off of ‘Live And Let Die’ but stylistically, it strays from anything the band has ever done with the inclusion of a prominent piano part. The stripped back chorus feels like it could fill up stadiums and is a true ‘lighters in the air’ moment on the album. ‘Mad Sounds’ continues the slowed down portion of the album and adopts an R&B influence. Overall. the track feels a bit bare instrumentally and lyrically (with perhaps the most cringe worthy lyrics on the album with “Mad sounds in your ear make you feel alright, they bring you back to life”). However, when the song eventually picks up, it feels like it could be a live staple complete with Motown-esque “ooh la la la” accompaniment which is perfect for festivals.
‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, the third single to be taken from the album, is easily the most hip-hop influenced on this album, feeling akin to an early Eminem track. The song’s lyrics also recall the naïve nature of the first album and could have easily have been lifted from that era. Bookending this album is the stunning interpretation of a John Cooper Clarke classic ‘I Wanna Be Yours’, the song’s haunting instrumentation alongside Alex Turner’s emotive crooning provide for a fitting end to the bands most experimental effort yet.
‘AM’ is perhaps the most inaccessible Arctic Monkeys album yet, it is easily an album that you have to sit down with and is perfect for its selection of late night anthems. The band may have broadened their scope by experimenting with new genres and instruments but a lot of the tones on the album are very similar.