When Arctic Monkeys stood, like rabbits in headlights, on the Glastonbury Pyramid stage back in 2007, many were predicting the fall of the youthful rockers. They had been thrown into the limelight too soon, and they would crash and burn. Yet, here they are, releasing their fifth album, a few months after giving an immaculate performance on that same Pyramid stage. Time has served them well, and with 'AM' they've proved to everybody that they're more than sweaty teenagers who can't handle the big stages.
It's fair to say that all five of the Arctic Monkeys albums are different and varied. They experiment, try new things, and create albums that reflect who they are at the time, not what they're supposed to create according to genre, or what the fans want. 'AM' is thus a remarkably different album to earlier ones. However, the lyrics of front man Alex Turner are still as insightful, thought provoking, and witty as they were back when he was a fresh faced lad jumping around on a small stage somewhere in Yorkshire. 'Baby, we both know/ That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day' is a perfect example of the way Turner gets relationships in a way that many rockers forget as they either settle down, or lose their heads too far into the sky.
There is a running theme throughout the album: women and relationships. It's hard to create a whole album about girls like 'Arabella', who has a 'Helter Skelter 'round her little finger', or girls who don't return booty calls, and when they do, just complain about your mental state. It's just too cliché; everyone is writing about relationships, women, love and heartbreak. So, to be able to write an entire album that's overwhelmingly fixated on certain topics and still make it compelling is a skill, and it's rare. For Turner to have achieved this without just creating a well-produced, but tired and over clichéd album is a feat that shows just how interesting and refreshing he is with his lyrics.
The album can sometimes feel like it's dragging but, if anything, that's more because of the tunes and the melodies than the lyrics of Turner. It's complex, and this can partly be attributed to the superb production. While it appears so effortless and simple, so many different things are going on in each track, meaning that on each listen, something new pops up to make you brain stop and reprocess the entire song. It's not a bad thing, but it can be wearing, and those who don't want to give the album a serious listen will quickly fall by the wayside.
Growing up is inevitable, it happens to everyone and it should be embraced. There is no doubt that 'AM' is the album of an older, more mature band than the Arctic Monkeys that burst onto the scene with 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'. There's a wiser, more sophisticated feel and this has helped, in part, to create the smooth sound of 'AM'. Fans should embrace this because the excitement and rawness of the young boys from Sheffield has been channelled into a riper sound. If people look at 'AM' as an album of the same band that wrote their earlier hits, they will likely be disappointed. If, however, one recognises that the album is a work of a band in a different place; emotionally, intellectually and musically; then it can be recognised as the great album that it is. Next time you want to call a girl when you're high, throw on this record instead. Josh Homme said it was a 'sexy, after midnight record' and he was spot on.
Review by: Francesca D'Arcy-Orga
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