Album review: AM by the Arctic Monkeys
What's hot and not in your headphones
It's been a disappointing year for music. I was up all night in sweaty anticipation before The Strokes released their new album. It was bland.
I spoke noisily and protractedly in praise of the new Daft Punk album. Now I'm suffering from the kind of post-coital exhaustion that makes it clear how average the preceding events were.
Justin Timberlake substituted good songs for long songs on The 20/20 Experience.
Jay Z said "Beyonce," "Picasso," "Beyonce," "Basquiat," and "Billion" around 200,000 times each on the epically, momentously, apocalyptically rubbish Magna Carta Holy Grail.
I therefore can't be blamed for approaching the new Arctic Monkeys album, AM, with trepidation. I stumbled home one night and drunkenly paid for it on iTunes and fell asleep with it playing through my headphones. I couldn't remember any of it, so listened to it again in the morning. And again that evening. And again on the bus the next day.
AM is fantastic. The secret to the Arctic Monkeys' success is their ability to capture, in song, the speech and thought rhythms of drunken people. Their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not perfectly distilled a drunken night out with mates into 12 songs. Since then, they've sung about darker, more oblique things - the music was still good, just not immediately arresting.
AM returns to where the Monkeys feel most at home: the club, the bar, the house-party. Alex Turner's singing about girls he wishes he could get with, girls he thinks might be keen, girls he thinks aren't, and girls he chases when he's had a few. On that level, he and the band are able to connect with every person who's ever had such thoughts about a potential romantic interest.
The songs are hilariously sleazy and, above all, absolutely catchy. It's loud. It's rocky. It's fast and it's slow and it's full of bass.
For half the album, the Monkeys are on a five-beer buzz: they're a little boozy, but they're not yet messaging everyone on their Tinder list. The other half sees them evaluate, with bleary eyes and dry mouths, the horrors of the night before.
Standout tracks include the three singles so far: Do I Wanna Know, R U Mine, and Why Do You Only Call Me When You're High? They're all great rock songs: good beat, fuzzy bassline - your head can't help but bob in time.
A flatmate of mine noted the similarities between the rhythm sections of these songs and classic beats by Dr. Dre, and wished aloud that Eminem had used the Monkeys to produce his latest album instead of Rick Rubin.
Number One Party Anthem is a perfect account of wandering through the party in your best outfit, "wondering if she's left already or not". It captures the detachedness of being a little drunk, and resonates with anyone who's stayed at the party long after his or her crush has vanished.
A couple of songs, such as One For The Road and Arabella, sound a liiiiittle bit too similar to one another to be totally engaging, but other than that this is a catchy, loud, funny collection of songs.
They headlined Glastonbury and were amazing apparently, so I'm holding out for their appearance at Rhythm and Vines next year if, of course, the organisers can afford them after paying the millions required to book big names like Six60 and Benny Tipene. In the event that the Monkeys can't make Gizzy this December, I implore you to buy this album and listen to it heaps. You won't regret it.
8.5/10 (A solid 'A').
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