Released September 9th, 2013.
Arctic Monkeys came along at a perfect time; call them indie, post-punk revivalists, whatever – their brand of urgent, angular rock stirred something in the hearts and minds of teenagers and bored middle-aged musos alike. In a decade where TV exec’s actually sought after Geordie narrators for their shows, a strong sense of identity had never been more important. Unfortunately, these cheeky Sheffield chaps have lost whatever charm they once had.
AM is Arctic’s fifth record, and the alarm bells were ringing at Suck It and See frankly. It’s fair to say the first two albums are in essence the definitive work of the Arctic Monkeys. Humbug’s psychedelic twist gave the band a whole new lease of life, displaying an ability to evolve and expand musically. Then you hit Suck It and See, a well-crafted album, but nevertheless one that seemed sterile and safe in comparison. And that brings me to AM, which with great sadness I report, is even worse.
The album opens with a plodding Sabbath-esque beat over which a limp-wristed, pansy riff is thrown. ‘Do I wanna Know?’ sets the tone for what’s to come; it’s brooding, but not intense – my gut reaction is half arsed. The band never climb out of second gear; ‘One For the Road’ is another head hanging track that is frustratingly sparse, relying on embellishments from Jamie Cook to lift the monotony, especially on ‘Knee Socks’.
Sonically the downfall seems to lie with the people the Arctics have become associated with. Tchad Blake (Black Keys producer) and Josh Homme’s influence has swamped the bands sound and ultimately sucked away everything that sold them to us all those years ago.
The riffs are simple, and almost all of which could be played by a novice on one string (not necessarily a bad thing); the beat is industrial and cold, but the sound is polished and clean which just doesn’t add up. ‘Cannon’ by the White Stripes is a great example of how this kind of song writing can work when done raw and with passion; AM comes across like Arctic Monkeys doing a mishmash of other peoples work and forgetting to put their own two cents into the ring.
Alex Turner’s lyrics are like marmite and stay as colloquial as ever on this record, but the echo on almost every vocal, backed by another falsetto voice becomes repetitive and extremely annoying. As standard nowadays we’re treated to a few pleasant ballads, most notably ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ but unfortunately the likes of which don’t stand up to, or feel half as sincere as songs such as ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Love Is a Laserquest’.
Arcade Fire’s latest drop ‘Reflektor’ goes to shows how evolution and change doesn’t haven’t to compromise a bands core sound, and the merits which made them great – with Arctic’s recent releases it seems the band are stagnating and becoming more and more irrelevant by the minute.
Am oozes coolness and sexiness but also a total reluctance to overreach itself – it’s a slippers on, let’s watch an ITV drama approach to Rock, which may appear aesthetically pleasing to some fans, but honestly I advise anyone who is planning to sit through the whole record in one go to have some KC & The Sunshine Band at the ready, you’re going to need something to wake you up.