It’s been half a dozen years since the release of their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and Arctic Monkeys have spent that time perfecting their sound, their image, and their live performance. You can see all this hard work manifest itself on the band’s new album AM in the form of increasingly intricate guitar riffs and brazenly forward lyrics. There are no frills, no filters, and c’mon ladies, just look at that header image. The guys clean up nicely, no?
Fans got a brief preview of AM’s vibe with “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair” off 2011’s Suck It And See. The sultry single was gritty and catchy like no other, but it’s sandwiched within a more lighthearted track list while the new record boasts a consistently brooding, darker dynamic from start to finish.
This tone kicks off with “Do I Wanna Know,” an unabashed ballad of lust and longing. Cascading percussion highlights shimmering cymbals, and wave after wave of progressing bass and electric guitars layered with Alex Turner’s crooned one-liners guide listeners through this intoxicating, four-and-a-half-minute spiral of seduction.
Arctic Monkeys have never been a band to listen to at a low volume, and AM’s “R U Mine” is a testament to that. The song launches right into an amplified electric breakdown grounded by Turner’s voice, which stays controlled and consistent despite the raw bass and climbing, hammering guitar solos. For one of the album’s shorter tracks, it packs a punch.
Calculated bass lines guide listeners into “One for the Road,” and at this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mentioned the power of the group’s harmonies on AM. The echoing backup vocals and ooh-ooh’s complement and strengthen the song, adding extra layers to the track and providing a fuller sound in perfect synch with each member’s unique voice. Guitar breakdowns are strikingly similar to those of Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son” in “Arabella” — an odd comparison, I know — but when combined with the Monkeys’ signature sound, they provide a nice contrast.
Slowing things down, “No. 1 Party Anthem” is a modern-day prom dance slow song. Coolly crooned invitations flow naturally with heightened keys and acoustics: “It’s not like I’m falling in love. I just want you to do me no good, and you look like you could.” Keeping with the slower theme, “Mad Sounds” cues the tambourine and inspires foot-tapping, plus it includes more of the harmonies mentioned in “One for the Road.”
A little deeper into AM, we find something familiar with “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” Arctic Monkeys made waves with their music video for the track following their video for “Do I Wanna Know?” Both are incredibly different, but centrally and sensually themed. “Snap Out of It” picks up the pace a bit with anthemic vocals, and it brings that tambourine back but with a more upbeat vibe than the previous tracks.
“I Wanna Be Yours” is the sad end of AM, but the blow is softened by the romantic message of the song: “I wanna be your setting lotion, hold your hair in deep devotion at least as deep as the Pacific Ocean.” Did I mention the Sheffield natives have recently relocated to our very own Los Angeles? The song is a fearless, unfiltered request featuring resounding guitars and backing vocals, and it closes the album flawlessly.
Arctic Monkeys will be playing THREE sold-out nights at the Wiltern this month, and you won’t want to miss these shows, so if you can snag tickets, I highly recommend doing so!
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