Album Review: AM // Arctic Monkeys

Alex Turner once said “don’t believe the hype”, yet in the context of AM, the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth studio-album, his words appear to have been dismissed. A fusion of R&B and rock, AM shows that Turner, O’Malley, Cook and Helders are no longer the teenagers that they once were; having grown into successful rockstars, now emulating many other successful artists.

Whilst I don’t have a problem with bands drawing inspiration from other musicians, I feel like Arctic Monkeys have borrowed slightly too much; a fact which is epitomised by the album title ‘AM’ mimicking the Velvet Underground’s 1985 release ‘VU’.

The first track ‘Do I Wanna Know’ establishes the grown-up tone from the outset; built on Jamie Cook’s sexy, monolithic riff it has the capacity to get even a nun’s hips gyrating, and is extremely catchy. Despite being a great song, it’s been unfortunately spoilt by having been turned into the anthem of Alex Turner wannabes everywhere. Apparently having a quiff and wearing a leather jacket is tantamount to having a superpower.

‘Mad Sounds’ is incontestably similar to Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’. There’s also “this tune I’ve found”, namely ‘The Sky Is Fallin” by Queens of the Stone Age which contains falsetto-style backing vocals that are copied in ‘One For The Road’. This is obviously a result of QOTSA frontman, Josh Homme’s contribution to the album, and indeed this song. But I already have Queens of the Stone Age on my iPod – if I wanted to listen to them, I would.

I miss Arctic Monkeys’ commentary on the humdrum details of everyday life and the distinct Sheffield twang to Turner’s words. The fundamental problem with AM is that the LA-based lifestyle the band now leads is not familiar to the listener, whereas songs about taxis with red lights that indicate “doors are secured” once were.

Is the album worthy of the 10/10 rating it was given by NME?

On such an album, each song should be unique; criteria not met by ‘Do I Wanna Know’ sounding like a slowed down version of ‘R U Mine’. ‘Fireside’, one the albums weakest tracks, contains grating “shoo-wop shoo-wops” which make me want to skip the song entirely.

Then there’s the anomalous track ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ which feels like it would be more fittingly placed on the Submarine soundtrack. As a wistful ballad it sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t comply with the sexed-up tone of the rest of the album. Sure, Alex Turner remains a talented lyricist; that much can’t be contested…but the lack of cohesiveness in AM leaves it undeserving of its 10/10 rating.

Further adding to my disappointment was the mediocrity of my experience at the (re-scheduled) hometown gig at Sheffield Motorpoint Arena. The audience seemed to be made up of a flock of sheep led by a shepherd called ‘NME’, baa-ing along here and there, secretly hoping nobody would notice that they hadn’t actually bothered to learn the words to the band’s new material prior to attending the show.