Review: Arctic Monkeys, ‘AM’


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Arctic Monkey’s AM Depicts Deep Infatuation At Its Best

Arctic Monkeys • AM • Domino • US Release Date: September 10, 2013

Arctic Monkeys-PFR-011330Listening back to The Arctic Monkeys exceptional debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, it is amazing how the amount of maturity the band has exhibited since then.  That maturity really shines on the collective’s fifth studio album AM. AM details the aftermath of a broken relationship, with its regrets and the continual infatuation.  Consistent from start to finish, AM proves to be a brilliant affair by all means.  AM was definitely a ‘sleeper’ album in 2013.

AM opens superbly with the show stopping number “Do I Wanna Know?”, the ultimate ‘drunken’ confession of love.  Set in a minor key, the sound is dark with distorted garage guitars, while the groove is both relaxed and infectious. Front man Alex Turner is infatuated – no doubt about it! “So have you got the guts?” Turner sings on the second verse, “Been wondering if your heart’s still open / and if so, I wanna know what time it shuts…” If Turner fails to convey his ‘drunkenness’ on the verses, he makes it obvious on the chorus: “Crawlin’ back to you / ever thought of calling when you’ve had a few? / Cause I always do / Maybe I’m too busy being yours to fall for somebody new / now I’ve thought it through / crawling back to you.”  “Do I Wanna Know?” is a brilliant opening statement.

Record Store Day smash single “R U Mine?” follows up “Do I Wanna Know?” capably, speeding up the tempo slightly, remaining in a minor key.  Turner’s love malaise continues: “I go crazy cause here isn’t where I wanna be / and satisfaction feels like a distant memory / and I can’t help myself / all I wanna hear her say is ‘Are you mine? / Are you mine?’”  Turner continues to pursue ‘her’, but doesn’t have confirmation that she’s his.  “One For The Road” is another cut where the bottle seems to play a clear role.  Songwriting continues to allure, with Arctic Monkeys delivering their third consecutive hit. The repetitive iteration of the titular lyric – in falsetto – is among multiple highlights.  Turner, during the bridge, claims “The mixture hits you hard / don’t get that sinking feeling / don’t fall apart / some out of tune guitar / soundtrack to disaster.”  Once more anchored by swagger-laden groove, “One For The Road” continues on an exceptional trek.

Arctic Monkeys-PFR-011322With girls deeply affecting the front man, “Arabella” has really got Turner bothered to the point he spends the entirety of the song ‘painting a picture’ of her. “My days end best when the sunset gets itself behind,” he sings on the pre-chorus.  “That little lady sitting on the passenger side / it’s much less picturesque without her catching the light / the horizon tires but it’s just not as kind on the eyes / as Arabella, oh / as Arabella.”  On follow-up “I Want It All”, the guitars rock out hard with some superb riffs.  Besides overall production, the vocal arrangement/production stands out here in particular.  The chorus is simple (“I want it all / I want it all”), while the verses express the band’s sentiment of ‘wanting it all’ be it “Blind faith, heartache / mind games, mistakes” (Verse one) or “Old dogs, new tricks…” (Verse two).

One would expect “No. 1 Party Anthem” to be quick and incredibly enthusiastic.  Instead, even in spite of the first major key of the album, “No. 1 Party Anthem” is slow and dramatic.  The harmonic progression is one of many pros, not to mention the colorful notes (accidentals).  Even at the slower tempo, Turner expresses plenty of lyrical swagger including lines such as “So you’re on the prowl wondering whether she left already or not / leather jacket, collar popped like antennae / never knowing when to stop…” (Verse one) and “Drunken monologues, confused because / it’s not like I’m falling in love I just want you to do me no good / and you look like you could” (Verse two).  His best lyrical triumph comes courtesy of the smart bridge: “The look of love, the rush of blood / the ‘she’s with me’, the Gallic shrug / the shutterbugs, the camera plus / the black and white, the color dodge / the good time girls, the cubicles / the house of fun, the number one party anthem.”  “No. 1 Party Anthem” is a definite stand out.

Arctic Monkeys-PFR-011331Mad Sounds”, opens sort of mysteriously with a interesting guitar lick.  The track continues on with consistency, though separates itself from other cuts with less convention songwriting structure.  A less predictable structure eliminates any predictability about AM as a whole.  “Fireside”, like “Mad Sounds” isn’t necessarily the elite of AM, but still a very sound, enjoyable number.  Still, hard to deny the honesty of the lyrics: “And I thought I was yours, forever / or maybe I was mistaken / but I just can’t help manage / to take it through the day without thinking of you lately.” A brief instrumental section is a nice touch, allowing the music itself to shine.

Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” is among the elites, sporting a groove and theme similar to the opener.  As always, Turner finds himself ‘trailing’ in the pursuance of the girl.  “Somewhere darker, talking the same shite,” she sings on verse two, “I need a partner, well are you out tonight?”  The chorus is its crowning achievement: “Now it’s three in the morning and I’m trying to change your mind / Left you multiple missed calls and to my message, you reply / why’d you only call me when you’re high?”  Ultimately, the track rocks despite Turner’s lack of game.

Arctic Monkeys-PFR-011320The clever “Snap Out Of It” finds Turner trying to convince his love interest to leave her current boyfriend for him (“I wanna grab both your shoulders and shake baby / snap out of it (snap out of it) / I get the feeling I left it too late but baby / snap out of it…”). He really lays it on ‘convincingly’ the bridge: “Under a spell you’re hypnotized / darling how could you be so blind (snap out of it).”  On penultimate number “Knee Socks”, the bedroom is the only thing on the front man’s mind, evidenced in the chorus when he sings “…when you walked around your house wearing my sky blue Lacoste / and your knee socks.” In other words, his former flame walked around in his shirt and socks and nothing else…  By closer “I Wanna Be Yours”, Turner is D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E to be her boyfriend: “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / breathing in your dust…” (Verse one) and “Let me be the portable heater / that you’ll get cold without…” (Verse two).   “I Wanna Be Yours” proves to be a soulful way to close AM.

All in all, AM is among the very best albums of 2013.  The biggest regret from a reviewer’s perspective is missing out on AM upon its arrival in September 2013.  Regardless, this album is one whose gifts will keep on giving throughout 2014, and for years to come.  Enthusiastically recommended!

Recommended spins:

“Do I Wanna Know?”; “R U Mine?”; “One For The Road”; “No. 1 Party Anthem”; “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

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Verdict: ★★★★½

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