Friday, 20 September 2013

AM - Arctic Monkeys

There is nothing like the weight of expectation on a band who are at the peak of their powers. But this is nothing new for the Arctic Monkeys who are now twice Mercury Music prize nominated and this summer's triumphant Glastonbury headliners. After the glossy and sugar coated 'Suck it and See,' the Monkey's fifth offering is a coming of age, from a band who have grown up very much in public.

Based in LA now, AM was recorded largely in the Mojave Desert and the influence is clear on the infectious, slow burner, 'Do I Wanna Know?' Turner's wistful vocal melts over the lethargic beat and thundering bassline until the chorus kicks in and the song comes to life. Turner asks 'Ever thought of calling when you've had a few?' a theme that follows throughout the entirety of the record. In some ways, this is indeed a concept album laced with uncertainty and desire, three tracks ask questions, all depicting a very defined space our protagonist finds himself in, trying to woo an unconvinced lover.

'R U Mine?' powers its way sublimely to crescendo, again highlighting not only the band's mercurial talent for songcraft but Turner's quite brilliant lyrical ability. 'She's a silver lining, lone ranger riding through an open space in my mind, when she's not right there beside me' an example of the talent this young wordsmith has honed and perfected over the last decade or so.

The album takes a slight change of pace on 'One for the Road' before picking up again for 70's influenced rocker 'Arabella.' AM of course is an apt title indeed, a nod to the Velvet Underground's VU, yet also very much a late night record. Choose your poison, dim the lights and prepare to be wowed.

The ebb and flow continues with the Cornerstone-esque 'No.1 Party Anthem' where Turner croons 'I just want you to do me no good and you look like you could.' A pure ballad, again lamenting the subject of the album.

Other stand out tracks include the upbeat, Queens of the Stone Age influenced 'Snap Out of It,' where the backing vocals are high-pitched and Turner pleads' It sounds like settling down or giving up but it doesn't sound much like you girl.'

However, if one track was to sum up AM, it would be the deliciously-titled 'Knee Socks,' featuring the most inspiring 30-second segment of the entire record. As the song breaks down and the backing vocalists repeat the immortal line 'you and me could have been a the beginning of Mean Streets, you could be my baby...' the shuddering voice of Josh Homme powers over the track alongside a searing guitar, providing an orgasmic soundscape and the highlight of a brilliant album.  

There are many themes that could sum up AM. Desperation, longing, uncertainty. One thing that is certain however, is that the Arctic Monkeys have produced another belter. The craft and guile of the musicians, matched with Turner's lyrical wit and artistic vision, provide yet another feat of brilliance. A little more 'Humbug' and less 'Suck It and See' the band handles teenage themes with adult aplomb and decadent mischief. 
Lets just hope whoever the girl in question said yes, because if one thing is for sure, Alex Turner is most certainly a keeper.