AM Review

artist: Arctic Monkeys date: 09/18/2013 category: compact discs
Arctic Monkeys: AM
Released: Sep 9, 2013
Genre: Indie Rock, Garage Rock
Label: Domino
Number Of Tracks: 12
The album can best be summed up by the blurb Alex Turner has given to the media, describing the album as sounding "like a Dr Dre beat, but we've given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster."
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 8
 Overall Impression: 8
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overall: 7.7
AM Reviewed by: UG Team, on september 09, 2013
6 of 8 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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." // 8

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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.

// 8

- Brandon East (c) 2013

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overall: 8.3
AM Reviewed by: UG Team, on september 18, 2013
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: Released two years after their last record, 2011's "Suck It and See," Arctic Monkeys return with "AM." Opening with the glam stomp and massive choruses of first single "Do I Wanna Know?," the Monkeys announce their return in grand fashion. The hand claps, falsetto backing vocals, and pounding riffs set the tone for the first half of the album. Released last year as a stand alone single, the frantic "R You Mine?" finds a new home as the second track on "AM." Containing breakneck drumming, falsetto call-and-response vocals from Alex Turner and drummer Matt Helders, and a strutting swagger, "R you Mine?" clearly provided the band with the sonic blueprint going into record their fifth album. "One for the Road" continues in a similar fashion, while adding in the first hints of R&B and hip-hop influences on the album. Matt Helders adds doo-wop "ooh-oohs" as a foundation for ambient guitar and rumbling rhythm section. Fourth track "Arabella" shows that touring with The Black Keys has rubbed off a little on the Monkeys. The track is all aggressive riffs and confident swagger in the chorus, tempered by pulsing drums & bass, and plucked, reverb drenched guitar in the verses, and is a true highlight. The heavily T-Rex influenced "I Want It All" is the first true dud of the album, with its squealing guitars and sugary keyboards never really gathering any steam, and sounding more like a failed experiment, ending the first half of the album on somewhat of a let down. Thankfully, the second, more introspective and gentle, half of the album is almost exclusively prime Monkeys. Beginning with the John Lennon-piano pop of "No. 1 Party Anthem," the middle third of the album is made up of three back-to-back ballads, which creates a very solid centerpiece for the record. The true showstopper is the 7th track, "Mad Sounds." More than a little indebted to The Velvet Underground, the heroin-soul track sounds like a lost cut from the Velvet's self-titled masterpiece, with it's crystalline guitars, church organ, and melodic bass lines. The missed opportunity for a Lou Reed guest vocal is unforgivable. Track eight, "Fireside," invokes "Achtung Baby" era U2, with Matt Helders propulsive, almost tribal drumming, and Jamie Cook's delay-heavy, Edge-style guitar elevating the song to heights that it might not have reached with lesser musicians. The final third of the album begins with new single, "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" All slick hip hop beats and basslines, the song is the Monkey's take on modern R&B, which they do impressively well, layering the song with more Matt Helder's falsetto basking vocals, soulful guitar, and a hook in the chorus that ensures that this song will be played heavily on radio for years to come. Following is the much less successful "Snap Out of It," which is the album's second true dud. While it contains a catchy hook in the chorus, the track ends up meandering without ever catching fire, leading to the least essential track on the album. Thankfully, the penultimate track, "Knee Socks," brings the quality of the recording soaring back towards the sky. Possibly the most experimental song on the album, it contains a strutting disco beat and enough sexuality to make Roxy Music proud. In fact, the spirit of Bryan Ferry hangs strongly over this track. The acapella vocal outro brings to mind the Roxy classic "Mother of Pearl." And, as is the law of rock n' roll, Josh Homme's presence on the track elevates it to true transcendence. A future Monkeys' classic, and the albums biggest experimental success. The final track on the album, "I Wanna Be Yours," bring the tone of the album back down. The track's dense atmosphere could be cut with a knife, built upon a soulful rhythm section, thick strings, and layered vocals, ending things on a much heavier and personal note. // 8

Lyrics: Lyrically, Alex Turner has been universally praised for his story telling prowess, dry wit, and ability to create brilliant turns of phrase. This album is no different. Beginning with their third album, "Humbug," Turner also began adding in vague, poetic symbolism, which has made many of the song's lyrics near indecipherable. Thankfully, this hasn't detracted from the quality of the music or lyrics. The lyrics on "AM" have a dark, sensual current running through them, which gives the album a sexual weight. "Do I Wanna Know?" and "R You Mine?" absolutely burn with longing and sexual tension, while the more personal songs "No. 1 Party Anthem," "Mad Sounds," "Fireside," and "I Wanna Be Yours" are tales of indecision about commitment, lost love, and loneliness. The more uptempo songs, "One for the Road, "Arabella," "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?," and "Knee Socks" are tales of sexual conquest, whether it be breakup sex, trying and failing to initiate a one night stand, or detailing the act itself. Of course, all of these subjects are well worn terrain for rock and roll, but Turner is able to revive them by injecting them with his signature sensibilities and intelligence. Vocally, Turner has only gotten better with age. While he screeched and wailed his way through their debut album, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, and a sense of complete ironic detachment as he narrated tales of sex, late night clubbing, and young love, Turner has matured into quite a sincere crooner. Because the album's lyrics are more sincere and personal, he is able to compliment them with a deeper range and delivery. The new secret weapon of the band would have to be Matt Helder's falsetto harmonies and backing vocals, which help give the songs weight and density, and well as being quite a potent counterpoint to Turner's croon. // 9

Overall Impression: While this is certainly not Arctic Monkeys' best album, and does contain more duds than their past releases, it doesn't detract from the fact that this is a solid release. Five albums in, the band is still expanding its sound and experimenting by pushing the limits of their music. By incorporating elements of varied genres such as R&B, hip hop, glam, and soul, the band finds new variations on what could have very easily turned into a formula. After the modern classic that is their first album, it would have been perfectly acceptable for them to release five albums worth of variations on "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" and "When the Sun Goes Down." Thankfully, the band has decided to challenge themselves, and continue moving forward and evolving. Thankfully, the successes of the album do greatly outnumber the failures. And unlike many bands that would simply absorb and regurgitate influences and genres, while coming off as contrived and pretentious, the Arctic Monkeys are far too talented as musicians and songwriters to allow that to happen. The incorporation of different influences and genres comes off as natural and logical progressions for the band. Like all of the Arctic Monkeys past albums, all of the songs are extremely listenable, with a large number of them being instant classics. Also, the fact that an album this good and with this many great songs can be considered a second tier album by this band is just a testament to the high quality of material that they have created their back catalog with. // 8

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