Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM
Published on September 10th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
So, Arctic Monkeys title their new album AM, just as Beady Eye titled theirs BE. You’d think that one of these bands would be more imaginative than the other, but there you go.
The embroidered initials approach strikes as being an especially odd one for Arctic Monkeys, since AM is by no means representative of their oeuvre.
It’s a smart about-turn on the poppier stylings of 2011’s Suck It and See but, regarded away from its lineage and entirely on its own terms, it’s a less satisfying record.
Basically, AM is much of a muchness punctuated by the odd homage…a procession of meaty riffs, chunky rhythms, bluesy melodies and a nocturnalism contrary to the album’s title.
There’s nothing here as exhilarating as the more frenetic Suck It and See numbers like “Library Pictures”, but Alex Turner’s knack for engaging lyrical intimacy remains alive and well in lines like “Until I fall asleep, spilling drinks on my settee” and “Sunglasses indoors, par for the course”.
Opening quartet “Do I Wanna Know”, “R U Mine”, “One for the Road” and “Arabella” are each perfectly presentable and laced with good ideas; they’re just all so gosh darn similar-sounding.
Distinguishing features do make themselves known: “R U Mine?” has some superb rumbling drum fills scattered liberally about it, while “One for the Road” packs a neat backing vocal motif of “ooh ooh, one for the road!”, albeit it does ‘borrow’ somewhat from “Sympathy for the Devil”.
It’s not until the pulsing bass and sassy falsetto of “I Want It All” that it feels like the first real detour has been taken…and it’s enthralling, lit up by sly, fuzzy lead guitar that seems to open the floodgates for other sounds to dictate proceedings from hereon in.
Problem is, these ‘other’ sounds are all too familiar: if “No. 1 Party Anthem” sounds wonderful, and it does, it’s because it also sounds uncannily like solo John Lennon. Influence is one thing, but this is outright imitation.
As is the ensuing “Mad Sounds”, which might just as well have been a cover of a track from The Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album. Turner even appears to be trying to sing like Lou Reed here, which just isn’t necessary.
“Fireside” fares well, allowing its minor key air and appropriately burning tinkles of harpsichord to diffuse back into itself with no little class, while the grammatically questionable “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” is a cool kind of strut.
There is little to hold against the moddy Motown of “Snap Out of It” and ‘horny Franz Ferdinand’ of “Knee Socks”, but not a great deal to champion them for either.
As for closer “I Wanna Be Yours”…well, the lyrical likes of “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathe in all your dust / I wanna be your Ford Cortina / I won’t ever rust” may be tongue-in-cheek, but they just bring to mind Bryan Adams croaking “I wanna be your underwear!”.
No one needs to be reminded of that.
AM is out now on Domino.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!