Sound — 8
Arctic Monkeys formed in 2002, and by the time they released their debut release in 2006 had gathered such an internet following (with fans sharing the band's demos online) that their debut album broke a record for fastest selling debut release in the UK. From album to album they have consistently changed their style, while staying technically inside the genre of indie rock. "AM" was titled in the same vein as "VU" by the Velvet Underground, just using the band's initials. "AM" is the Arctic Monkeys' fifth full-length studio release, and contains 12 tracks with a runtime just under 42 minutes. The tracks "R U Mine?", "Do I Wanna Know?", and "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" were each released as singles for the album, with the first in February 2012, leading up to the album release in September 2013. As the Arctic Monkeys have changed their style up a little bit between each album, "AM" reminds me at times of Muse, QOTSA and The Black Keys. The album opens up with the track "Do I Wanna Know?", which immediately got my ear making comparisons to The Black Keys, thus my comparison above. A simple yet infectious guitar riff holds the track together, while the lead vocals play call and response with the backup vocals kept me listening. "R U Mine?" is next up, and once again there is a killer riff and bass line to match, but what really made this track shine was probably the pace and rhythm of the lyrics. "One for the Road" is the first track on the album that really got me thinking about the QOTSA comparison, mainly in the way that the percussion and bass parts interact. This is carried much less by guitar than the previous two tracks, but that part is filled nicely by the percussion and bass. "Arabella" continues on with pushing the desert rock sound, with the percussion and bass being the part throughout that keeps you engaged but with a strong guitar riff coming in for the chorus. "I Want It All" probably sounds the most like a QOTSA track of any on the album to me, though you can still hear that it is like the Arctic Monkeys doing an impression while adding their own accent. "No. 1 Party Anthem" definitely has a Beatles feel to it, or more specifically maybe a solo John Lennon feel. "Mad Sounds" marks the beginning of the second half of the album and probably the only track that my mind doesn't immediately associate with another musician or band. It is a slow tempo'd track with an almost subdued feel to it. "Fireside" is an interesting track with a subtle mariachi feeling to it, almost. "Fireside" would have to be my least favorite track because the guitar and percussion parts started sounding very repetitive to me very fast (though I did appreciate the general vibe of the track). "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" is another track that has that QOTSA sound to my ears, but again with the Arctic Monkeys twist to it. "Snap Out of It" is a really interesting track on the album, and it reminds me more of previous Arctic Monkeys material more than any other track on the album. "Knee Socks" is another track with Josh Homme guesting on some of the vocals. The intro guitar riff was really probably the best part of the track for me, but the entire track has a really interesting groove to it. The album closes out with the track "I Wanna Be Yours," which is possibly one of the most unusual love songs I've ever heard with lyrics like "I wanna be your vacuum cleaner/ breathe in your dust." The Arctic Monkeys seem like theyre constantly working on redefining themselves, and I like the general direction theyre going with "AM."
Lyrics — 7
Alex Turner has always had a good voice for indie rock, and the compositions on "AM" give him the perfect opportunities to show it off. Nick O'Malley and Matt Helders provide backing vocals and do a great job. While Matt Helders has provided some lead vocals on a few Arctic Monkeys tracks, I don't believe that he provides any lead vocals on "AM." Josh Homme (QOTSA) provides some vocals for both the tracks "Knee Socks" and "One For The Road," adding an interesting twist to change things up a little bit. The majority of the lyrics on the album are dealing with love and relationships (and especially unrequited love). As a good example, here are some lyrics from the opening track, "Do I Wanna Know": "Have you got color in your cheeks? / Do you ever get that fear that you can't shift the type that sticks around like something in your teeth? / Are there some aces up your sleeve? / Have you no idea that you're in deep? / I've dreamt about you nearly every night this week/ How many secrets can you keep? / 'Cause there's this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat/ Until I fall asleep/ Spilling drinks on my settee/ (Do I wanna know?)/ If this feeling flows both ways/ (Sad to see you go)/ Was sorta hoping that you'd stay/ (Baby we both know)/ That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day/ Crawling back to you." Another example is from "R U Mine?": "I'm a puppet on a string/ Tracy Island, time-traveling diamond/ Coulda shaped heartaches/ Come to find ya fall in some velvet morning/ Years too late/ She's a silver lining lone ranger riding/ Through an open space/ In my mind when she's not right there beside me/ I go crazy 'cause here isn't where I wanna be/ And satisfaction feels like a distant memory/ And I can't help myself, / All I wanna hear her say is "Are you mine?"/ Are you mine? / Are you mine? / Are you mine?" Love has probably been the most popular theme in lyrics for music historically, but at least Arctic Monkeys find a fairly original way to express it.
Overall Impression — 8
I've got a love/hate relationship going on with Arctic Monkeys I think I have to fight my inner-hipster (who thinks that they're too mainstream these days to be a good band), but being completely honest about it I really enjoyed this album. I would like to blame the goodness of the album on Josh Homme (as I believe he's a genius), but while he definitely added to the value of the album, it would probably be an awesome album even without him. If I had any gripe of the album, each track sounds like a loose impression of other musicians to me. My favorite tracks from the album are "I Want It All," "Knee Socks," "R U Mine?", and "Do I Wanna Know." I definitely enjoy the vein of desert rock that seems to run throughout the album, and this is personally my favorite Arctic Monkeys album to date. This definitely gets my stamp of approval.