Crunch rock meets croon pop
I have been a massive fan of the Arctic Monkeys ever since their first American television appearance. The year was 2006, and the album was “Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not.” The record was an honest storyline about a crazy night out in a small British town.
A lot has changed over the past seven years, but I am happy to report that Alex Turner (lead singer and lyricist) is still falling for all of the wrong women in all of the sketchy places.
The lyrics are written as hopelessly as ever, and, with this album, the music is more accessible than ever. Is this a good thing?
Arctic Monkeys play the Black Keys
The Arctic Monkeys toured with the Black Keys throughout the writing of this album, and the results show.
While certain songs like “R U Mine” have that old Monkeys tone and brevity, a majority of the songs on the album really dial back the guitar and slow down the pace. The album opener “Do I Wanna Know” is not only the first hit but a sure sign that big bass and deliberate beats are going to drown out the loud-mouthed angst of their previous works.
The four-on-the-floor drums provided by Matt Helders provide a stark contrast to the frantic, rolling toms of “Favourite Worst Nightmare” and the rhythm guitar is practically removed by the thumping lines of the bass guitar.
Lots of Ooooooooo’s
The other sonic change on the album are the vocals.
Group vocals have been a part of the band since the beginning, with Turner and Helders typically dueling back and forth. On “AM”, not only has Alex simmered down and bottomed out, but the gang provides ooooo’s and aaaaah’s that bring to light an earlier age of music, where Elvis was winning Grammy’s for his gospels and band members wore matching suits to shows.
“AM”s’s closing track “I Wanna Be Yours” ends with the wailing of female backing vocals that harken back to the Motown movement.
The entire album asks you to chill out and listen and appreciate a different type of music, with slicked back hair and grease.
How are the lyrics in AM?
With all of this change, the ultimate question to ask is whether or not the lyrics have changed. While the delivery may be evolving, Alex Turner has always been ahead of everyone else in the scene, with lyrics that are intriguing yet simple –a hard line to ride. The titles of the songs suggest that the lyrics may not be as interesting as they would be in a song like “Red Light Indicates Doors are Secure.”
But any fear is quickly doused as Alex sings his way through . It’s hard not to dance like a snake during the chorus of “One for the Road”: So we all go back to yours/And you sit and talk to me on the floor/There’s no need to show me ’round baby/I feel like I’ve been here before.
In the album’s best track, “Arabella,” the ping-pong lyrics towards the end transition right into a solo which is practically part of the conversation. The last minute of “Arabella” is one of the best moments in music this year.
Overall, the lyrics are just as good as ever, and Alex continues to impress.
The brevity of the title “AM” suggests that the Arctic Monkeys have become a simpler, yet more effective group of musicians. The initials emphasize that these are still the Arctic Monkeys, albeit a more progressive one.