As befits a band entering into its second decade of existence, Arctic Monkeys has come a long way from its adrenalized tempos and soccer-chant choruses. Don’t mistake that for maturity, however. This is still the same puckish quartet that enjoys a good pub crawl, the occasional pill on the tongue and making a loud rock racket.
What has continued to evolve is the UK quartet’s sound, which has slowed to a steady heartbeat-like pulse inspired by the stoned expanse of acts like Black Sabbath and T. Rex, and frontman Alex Turner’s lyrics.
Early days found him relating wicked nights out on the town; and, on 2011’s Suck It and See, he turned on his bedroom eyes and seduced an unnamed lovely. But on AM, the bloom has faded on the romance and Turner is left to pick up the pieces.
The bitterness of these lyrics doesn’t bleed over into the music, thankfully. There, the Monkeys still sound as punchy and fiery as ever; they’ve just embraced a glammed-out rock sound that is as surprisingly comfortable as Turner’s slicked back ‘do.
This might be the further influence of Josh Homme, the Queens of the Stone Age leader who co-produced the band’s 2009 album, Humbug, and sings backup on two tracks on this new album. As well, the Monkeys recorded much of AM at the same Joshua Tree studio used by QOTSA, Kyuss and many of the Southern California stoner metal crew. The multiple bong hits that have likely permeated the walls of that space might also have bled into the dastardly grooves of “One For The Road” and lead track “Do I Wanna Know?”
The closest this album gets to moodiness serves an ironic purpose: giving “No. 1 Party Anthem” a gentle shimmer perfect for a slow dance. The lyrics tell the true tale: “If anyone told me you’d be the one/I’d tell them you’re not for me/but give you a chance/and you’d twist them as far as they’d go.”
Perhaps wisely, Turner isn’t laying the blame solely at the feet of the woman in these songs. Case it point: “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” which as you might surmise, outlines his desperation for a 3 a.m. booty call with the title coming as a rebuttal.
Arctic Monkeys arrive at the end of AM a lot wiser than they may have appeared from the slow opening stomp of the LP. The band takes on a stately ‘70s-era march with rapturous keyboards backing them up the whole way. And for Turner, it’s a chance to spill out some genuine—and genuinely cheesy—romantic couplets (“if you like your coffee hot/let me be your coffee pot”). Everything on the album was building towards this hopeful, happy note. Turner and the band are now looking toward the future; we’d be wise to follow their gaze.