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Album Review: The Arctic Monkeys - AM

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4/5

After thrilling us with their first two LPs, generally underwhelming us with the moody Humbug and leaving us wanting a bit more with the stylish Suck it and See, the Monkeys produce their finest album in AM.

It’s clear that their previous efforts inform this album, but with insecure lyrics hidden behind confident sounds replacing the brashness of teens, the Monkeys have struck gold. 

The opening track serves to introduce us to several themes in AM, with references to the rejection, desperate attraction, veiled emotions and wallowing in a haze of self-pity. Do I Wanna Know is a booming first track whose lyrics betray the swaggering riffs and thumping drums by exposing the self-doubt of a booty call soured by Turner’s emotional attachment. This self-doubt continues as the album quickly upshifts into the best-selling single R U Mine, where Matt Helders’ frenetic drum work and the electrifying guitarmanship of Messer’s Cook, O’Malley and Turner explodes into your ears with the trademark Monkeys confidence, but masks a deeper insecurity.

Clarifying his relationship status is Turner’s chief concern in this album, and he gets his answer in One For the Road, a reflective cooing where he finds himself ruing his every move after finding himself in his lovers “relegation zone”. Turner then waxes lyrical about his muse in the hip-swiveling Arabella, needing to refer to galaxies and constellations to do her descriptive justice.

Arabella, the “space age country girl”, continues to befuddle Master Turner in I Want It All, a punchy summary of a relationship whose fires have long since burnt out. The album then soulfully slides into more measured territory in No. 1 Party Anthem, where the Monkeys wonder how and when to approach a lovely mademoiselle, simply one who can “do me no good”.

Mad Sounds is a ballad about the break up, and Turner tries his best to rationalise it, but sees his only way out as, as many of us do, finding solace in music. Fireside again reminisces of love in a happier time and wonders whether breaking up was the best option. The R’n’B infused High breaks from the measured middle section with a sexy regret-filled lustathon and Turner freely admits the stupidity of this potential hook-up, but exasperatedly mocks the titular moan anyway.

Turner sobers up and begs his now betrothed lost love to Snap Out Of It in the next track, but knows this last throw of the dice is likely to come up short. Knee Socks sees him recover with the story of a fling that mutually becomes something more, coming full circle from the rejection of Do I Wanna Know. The album finishes on a lyrical high, with the beautifully heartfelt I Wanna Be Yours drenched in desperate adulation.

Barely resembling the scoundrels from Sheffield that rode in on the post-punk zeitgeist in the mid-2000s, AM builds on the sounds we heard in Humbug to create a musical history lesson. R’n’B, Motown, ballad rock, even poetry, are all mediums that Alex Turner taps into, creating a range of sounds that manage to string a lifetime of lovers lament seamlessly from track 1-12. For Humbug’s many critics (full disclosure, I loved it), it’s clear now that without it, we wouldn’t have AM. And boy, I wouldn’t want that. 

AM is out now.

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