Arctic Monkeys - AM
Whatever people say about Arctic Monkeys, even their staunchest critic would have to begrudgingly applaud their work rate and subsequent success. Without resorting to ‘…Dancefloor’ clones, each of their four albums to date rose to the top of the charts and this year saw a second, well received, headline Glastonbury appearance. Now more or less Los Angeles based, AM somewhat looks back to the heavier vibes of their ambitious and divisive third album Humbug, at once as expansive musically but more immediate.
The complaints about Humbug and 2011's Suck It And See tended to focus on accessibility, or lack thereof; the former in particular took a while to settle in given its difference to the Favourite Worst Nightmare era. AM handles this from the off, hitting its listener with a heavy double bill of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, all menace and the year’s sharpest hook, and ‘R U Mine?’ with its rolling drums and frantic energy. A mid-album slowdown occurs with ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ and ‘Mad Sounds’, but for most of the running time, this is Arctic Monkeys in party mood.
Crucially the album isn't one-note and while there are tracks that carry echoes of previous outings (closer ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ has distinct echoes of ...Nightmare’s ‘505’, for example), there are moments that traverse styles fresh to the band, in particular ‘Fireside’ with its acoustic melody. The introduction of Ross Orton on co-production duties results in some flirtation with r'n'b and a lightness of touch on the likes of new single 'Why'd You Only Call...', but James Ford, production mainstay since ...Nightmare, ensures that even in these new departures, the shadow cast by new best friend Josh Homme still lingers.
As if viewing a further chapter in Arctic Monkeys’ development wasn’t enticing enough, the elements that made us fall in love with the cheeky Northern scamps of ‘…Dancefloor’ are here in force. Alex Turner’s characteristic, accented vocals are in fine fettle throughout as are the sharply observed, witty lyrics, as quintessentially Arctics as Matt Helders' drumming. “She’s got a Barbarella silver swimsuit and when she needs to shelter from reality, she takes a dip in my daydream,” Turner croons on ‘Arabella’, before switching to a more cutting mode on ‘Snap Out Of It’: “It sounds like settling down, like giving up / But it don’t sound much like you, girl”.
We proclaimed Suck It And See to be Arctic Monkeys’ best album and we stick by that. That being said, given its contrast, AM makes a terrific and fitting companion piece, the two together providing a thorough, thrilling summary of why they remain the most important British band of their generation. A fifth number one is all but guaranteed.