Arctic Monkeys AM Review


Photo Courtesy Vanyaland

AM is not an album. It is a lifestyle. It transcends all titles. It’s a mix of a darker sound heralded by the release of “R U Mine” back in April and heavy influences from R&B and rap. It’s a romantic record tainted by the surroundings of a decidedly unromantic world. It’s their fifth consecutive album to reach number one in the UK. The only way I can begin to speak coherently about the experience of listening to Arctic Monkeys’ fifth record is to speak separately about the stand-out tracks that make this record their best.

“Do I Wanna Know?” I was blown away when I first heard this. It signals a completely different era for Arctic Monkeys. It’s slow, dark and captivating, and it is definitely the tune you’ve found that makes you think of them somehow and you play it on repeat.

“Arabella” is the song that warns you that the rest of the album is just out of this world — it alludes to galaxies, constellations, and “interstellar gator-skin boots,” in a signature, surprising turn of phrase. The lyrics and chorus are brilliant as usual, and there’s an instrumental moment at 2:55 that is just so incredibly Arctic Monkeys.

“No. 1 Party Anthem” Despite the title, which sounds like something by LMFAO, this is actually the most moving ballad they’ve ever done (out of a list of like, four ballads). The first time I heard it I was overcome with an overwhelming urge to slow-dance with someone, or maybe just cry. It tells of a sleek, leather jacket clad night crawler who’s “on the prowl.” It’s not a story, maybe just a scene, but a deeper narrative is hinted at in fragmented lyrics like “The look of love, the rush of blood, the ‘she’s with me,’ the Gallic shrug.”

“Mad Sounds” has become one of my favorite Arctic Monkeys songs ever. It’s definitely not their best; there’s a difference. But it sounds so much like Velvet Underground (AM’s similarity to VU is no coincidence), broaches subjects like “feelings,” and seems to address a general “you,” not necessarily a particular love interest. These are not typical Arctic Monkeys topics. When the “ooh la la’s” come in you will find yourself smiling like a maniac. Unless you find it annoying, in which case you probably aren’t that much fun to be around. And yes, I think the “you” in the song is me. I can’t help it.

“Snap Out of It” It’s the irrational part of me that believes this track would be at home on a Broadway stage. It must be the implied snapping and Alex Turner’s greaser hair that leave me with the hilarious vision of Arctic Monkeys in West Side Story. But really, it’s a great song.

“Knee Socks” The best part comes near the end, when Alex Turner and co. start singing very quickly about kings and queens, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age contributes vocals. The small portion of the song that Homme sings is probably one of my favorite parts of the album. It’s kind of shadowy and mysterious. It’s unlike anything Arctic Monkeys have ever done before. And seeing it live is something akin to a religious experience or an epiphany – those nebulous concepts that you never really understand until they happen.

“I Wanna Be Yours” The words are actually a poem by John Cooper Clarke (who was a huge influence in Alex Turner’s writing), but set to music it becomes a slow, confessional love letter in tune with the trappings of modern society – I wanna be your vacuum cleaner . I guarantee you that next time you have one of those all-consuming crushes on someone, the words running through your head will be “Maybe I just wanna be yours, I wanna be yours I wanna be yours.” It’s the perfect closer to an astonishingly good album.

In a wild and failing last attempt to assure you of my sanity, I tracked down some other South students who listen to Arctic Monkeys, just so you don’t have to bear the burden of knowing about such a wonderful band alone. United we stand, divided we fall apart in our rooms alone over backing vocals.

Sophie Malaviya: “AM is probably one of the most important rock albums so far. It’s amazing to hear how they combined both hip-hop and rock n roll into one album. There hasn’t been a time when I’ve wanted to skip a song listening to it.”

Dan Jordan: “Had a really good combination of a new darker sound and older sounds you may hear on their album Humbug. AM has some really good, catchy, memorable songs and is definitely one of the best rock albums you’ll hear this year.”

Alyssa Nuyen: “My favorite tracks are ‘Arabella’ and ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High.’ It’s a solid album.”