First Impressions: Arctic Monkeys ‘AM’
Arctic Monkeys have said that their fifth record is the album they always wanted to make. Josh Homme has described it as a “sexy after-midnight record”. What does all this mean? Ahead of its September 6 release PERRI CASSIE gives his track-by-track first impressions of AM.
Do I Wanna Know?
Entering via a ”’Billy Squire meets The Strokes” beat, the slow-burning guitar riff swaggers into a song that is pure midnight sex appeal (as Josh Homme would put it). Alex Turner shows off his slickest writing to date, with some highly seductive word play. Simmer down, pucker up, and dig your nails into Turner’s leather jacket.
R U Mine?
Tell me you haven’t heard this song and acted out the music video in your own car already? Once initially a stand alone single for Record Store Day 2012, ‘R U Mine?’ turned out to be the catalyst for AM with the album being built around the track’s aggressively catchy riff and falsetto backing vocals. Jamie Cook told FL that it made it to the album because it was simply too good of a track not to have a proper home. I couldn’t agree more.
One For The Road
This track caught me off guard; it’s not terribly different from the style of the opening duo, but the prominent “one for the road” falsetto opening of the track signifies what will be a constant format for the remainder of the album. A strutting bassline accompanies Turner, whose sneering veneer is woven into a high-pitched vocal and the even higher “whoo whoos” of Matt Helders and Josh Homme.
One of the highlights of the album as it combines the best of both worlds. ‘Arabella’ channels guitar elements of Zeppelin and Sabbath (including an awesome face-melting solo within its closing moments) and runs them in tandem with shades of hip hop-chic. Turner glosses the track as he oozes lines like “Arabella’s got a seventies head, but she’s a modern lover/it’s an exploration, she’s made of outer space.” Brilliant.
I Want It All
There are “shoo-wops” in here, I repeat “shoo-wops”. This track is actually a high-vocal carbon copy of the ‘R U Mine?’ B-side ‘Electricity’, or of similar ilk at the very least. Pretty rocking, with more melting guitar work by Jamie Cook. But not as instantly satisfying as the rest of the album thus far. Those “shoo-wops” though…
No 1 Party Anthem
Probably as wanky as calling a song “Best Song Ever”, but don’t be put off by the title. This supposed Lennon-inspired ballad provides a much needed slow-down in the centre of an album that’s pushed pedal to the metal from the get go. Vaguely reminiscent of a cabaret ‘Cornerstone’, but not really anywhere near as gripping.
A unique presence on the album, and a definite stand out as the Monkeys play out a Lou Reed-shaded, croon. An easy Sunday morning track if there ever was one. Its woozy build up leads into the harmonic “oh la la la” hook. Mad sounds in your ears, indeed.
I can see this track being overlooked initially as it’s not as hook-laden as the majority of the album. Its driving rhythm is something that’ll be worth revisiting as the “shoo-wops” return and lodge themselves in your mind. An understated triumph.
Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
When Alex Turner said of this album, “It sounds 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” he almost certainly had this track in mind. Another sexually-charged number you just know Turner was combing his Elvis quiff to while recording.
Snap Out Of It
Mother of god this is catchy. This is a finger-clicking pop affair, laced with the album’s trademark falsetto. Whether by choice or not, if the hook “I wanna grab both your shoulders and shake, baby, snap out of it” doesn’t embed itself in your mind and have you involuntarily singing it loudly in your kitchen, consult your GP, you could be a robot.
Again it’s that “LA vibe meets British guitar” romance, and it is excellent. Makes you want to bop to that brilliant Turner lyricism, full of the falsetto hooks that make the album irresistible. And a swoon-worthy, ghosting appearance from Josh Homme…honestly, what more could you ask for in a song?
I Wanna Be Yours
A John Cooper Clarke poem that Turner put his own twist on, and turned into AM’s beautiful finale. Deviating from an album the sees several gear-shifts, this yearning curtain closer is gorgeous. Clarke has always been one of Turner’s biggest influences as a writer, and it shines through as he emotionally clings to every quirky romanticism, including this lovely gem: “I want to be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust.” Modern chivalry.
This is the album that the Arctic Monkeys wanted to make, and it shows. They’re a band at the top of their game. AM has cheesy, undeniably irresistible hooks, it has finesse, and it has all of the charm people have come to expect from Turner and co. It’s an incredibly unique Arctic Monkeys incarnation that is flooring a Mini Cooper, shifting its gears and changing it’s course from the Californian desert to LA and back again whenever it feels like it .
Arctic Monkeys’ AM is due for release on Friday, September 6 through Domino.