The Arctic Monkeys’ first album, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not, is pure 2kRock awesomeness and it made them one of my favorite modern bands. Now “the Monkeys” are releasing their 5th studio album, AM, and it’s sounding like a proper new effort. In interviews prior to this release, lead singer Alex Turner revealed that the new album was inspired by Black Sabbath and Dr. Dre. At first glance, it’s easy to notice the influence of the Godfathers of Metal, but Dre’s signature sound is a tad bit more difficult to hear. Overall, AM, delivers a great package that reminds us that Rock is not completely dead.
The album starts strong with “Do I Wanna Know?” a track that was released earlier in the year. It features a foot-stomping, head bopping dark sound that sets the tone for what most of the album sounds like. What works well is that it feels like a modern, slower Black Sabbath riff. Another track we heard prior to the album’s release was “R U Mine?” This track features the structure of a Classic Rock song with a great guitar riff, falsetto backing vocals and loud drums. Much like the previous song, “R U Mine?” feels perfect for an arena and is part of the key tracks of this release.
The next track, “One For The Road,” slows things some more but doesn’t hold the heaviness of the two opening tracks. Turner’s use of falsetto for the hook is interesting, vaguely resembling the soul and energy of 90s Hip Hop. “Arabella” has a Queens Of The Stone Age vibe. The build up works perfectly and it definitely feels like it’s influenced by the Rock heard in the 70s. The main riff will remind you of “War Pigs,” which is a perfect start and the guitar solo, while too short for my liking, sounded awesome. “I Want It All” feels like an 80s Brit-Punk song. The head-bopping-inducing riff is instantly catchy and the lead guitar work absolutely kills.
On paper, you would think “No. 1 Party Anthem” would be a song written up by the likes of Rih-Rih or Will.i.am. Instead, this track brings to mind those classic ballads from a few generations ago, evoking an Elton John vibe. Continuing with the softer portion of the album, “Mad Sounds” is also light on the distortion and feels like it’d fit better with the overall sound of their previous album, Suck It and See. It follows some of the basic structure of the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with a sweet organ part. “Fireside” does not sound like a typical AM track. The acoustic guitar-driven songs feels a bit like filler, the bass line being the only thing that stands out.
“Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” was released not long ago and it’s already getting covered by other (high profile) bands. Not to sound redundant, but “Snap Out Of It” also feels like a 70s Rock track, with a bit of an ELO sound but nothing particularly great about it. “Knee Socks” has an excellent opening riff and the bass groove feels a bit disco, but in a good way. It’s another minimalist head-bopper that has some potential for radio air play. “I Wanna Be Yours” closes the album but it brings down the tempo that was building up in the last few tracks. The riff sounds like a soft adaptation of their Favourite Worst Nightmare track, “505,” but it lacks energy and it doesn’t feel like the best way to close out an album.
From all the news that was coming out about this album and the tracks that were unveiled prior to its official released, AM looked like it could mark a change for a rougher sound from “the Monkeys,” but certain tracks on this release show the band is not completely over writing ballads. However, I do commend them for putting together some tracks that reminded me of what made them such a promising band some 10 years ago and releasing what turned out to be a really good album. Songs like AM’s two opening tracks and “Arabella,” among others, very well could be on live set lists for years to come but they’re not as strong as the work heard in the band’s first two releases. Although it’s way too early to be wondering what may come next from this band, I would like to see how the release of this album will affect the approach for their next project. For now, let’s enjoy the highlights of AM.
Key Tracks: “Do I Wanna Know?” “R U Mine,” “Arabella,” “I Want It All,” “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” “Knee Socks”