You don’t have to believe an Al Gore supporter to see the ugly truth that global warming is real, and it’s affecting humans and our environment. But it also poses a particular threat to a certain rebellious and certainly misplaced species: arctic monkeys. With the icecaps melting, what is a band of arctic monkeys to do?
One such group of precocious primates from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, decided that the only thing to do is to release another album. They released “One For The Road,” so to speak, which is actually the third track on the new Arctic Monkey’s album, appropriately titled AM. Featuring a vocal cameo from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, one for the road is a fine way to describe the new record, as it both a departure from the sounds of their previous four albums, as well as being damn good driving music.
Whereas Arctic Monkey’s 2006 debut work Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was altogether a quaint, lo-fi, dissonant, smoky album for dancing in bars and house party basements, and 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare was an intense, jittery, and ambitious hour of power, AM displays an incredible musical growth and maturation from Arctic Monkeys. While there’s nothing wrong with an album that sounds like four dudes giving themselves carpel tunnel syndrome from zealously pounding on drums and snapping guitar strings from power-strumming, AM sounds like a well groomed piece of studio work. The opening track “Do I Wanna Know?” kicks off the album (in the most literal sense) with an expertly effected set of foot stomps and hand claps that hark back to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” but with a certain biting, badass hip-hop attitude in the style of old school Dr. Dre. And then it drops: that fuzzy, classic Brit-rock guitar crunch made popular by groups like the Sex Pistols, every downbeat striking heavily on the anvil of modern rock-n-roll, working out a song that can really cut like a broadsword. The same can be said of just about every other song on the album, including the singles “R U Mine?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” AM‘s sound features a pervasive, unyielding tightness that reflects the sonic journey that has led the Monkeys to this latest record. They’ve put themselves through the wringer to achieve what they’ve done on AM.
The twitchy punk of their early years has been traded in for a slicker, smoother, slyer style of rock-n-roll. You can see it in their haircuts, too. It’s straight out of Grease. In either classic suits or leather jackets, the Arctic Monkeys have restyled everything about themselves. And it works. And moreover, to their credit, they managed to do it without making every song on the album sound the same. “Mad Sounds” and “I Wanna Be Yours” are two standout on the album for the slow, rich, melodious vulnerability that sees frontman Alex Turner giving in to his own hopeless romanticism and embracing rock-n-rolls inherent imperfection, rather than jabbing at it, as was characteristic of their earlier, polysyllabic work.
Bottom line(s): There’s really no single compromising flaw with this album. That’s not to say it’s flawless, because rock-n-roll is inherently about one’s own flaws, and the Monkeys own it on this album. If there’s any one bone to pick, it’s that the album ends a little unresolved. Mais c’est la vie du rock. There’s no resolve for a rolling stone. There’s no cooling down in a heating world. So, to end with a timeless cliché: the Arctic Monkeys fought fire with fire, and it is hot as hell. 4.4/5.