Three men. Five albums. Five Brit awards. And most importantly, one rogue frontman, with a Sheffield accent and newly exposed quiff. Of course, I’m talking about Arctic Monkeys, whose eagerly anticipated fifth album, AM, is creeping its unique melody into everybody’s ears, and their iTunes too.
The first of 12 tracks on AM, “Do I Wanna Know?”, bursts open with a menacing beat, setting the dark, yet enchanting mood which is laced throughout the album. This mid-tempo pace is continued in tracks such as “One For the Road” and “Knee Socks”, creating an effortlessly smooth, almost lazy mood, with a clear R’n’B influence. The subtle, suggestive sound of AM is embellished with playful guitar riffs and swooping vocals, even featuring Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme.
As always, Mr Turner delivers the lyrics with apparently effortless speed and wit, with a highlight being “Arabella”. Oozing passion and suspense, this track provides quick, quirky lines over serious rhythms and riffs. The lyrical flair is continued in “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”, an honest, amusing portrayal of the notorious drunk dialling. Along with “Arabella”, the explosive and catchy “R U Mine?” breaks free from the mellow, mesmerising tone of the album, and thus, is slightly more reminiscent of their previous albums.
However, AM also proves that ballads can be cool, as the tempo slows down in “No. 1 Party Anthem” and “Mad Sounds”. The former is a piano led ballad, with a longing drawl woven carefully throughout, contrasting with the somewhat sinister description of “Lights in the floors/and sweat on the walls/Cages and poles”. “Mad Sounds”, however, draws the listener into a nostalgic haze of quiet cymbals, guitars and “ooh-la-la’s”, quite unlike anything else on the album.
Undoubtedly, AM is built around a core of love and desire. Far from their debut “concept” album, as genius as it was, AM resonates a much deeper, darker message. By the time the echoing “I Wanna Be Yours” kicks in, the Sheffield boys have proven their maturity, with the subtle, yet effective inclusion of John Cooper Clarke’s poetry. I don’t know about you, but the sound of AM has a hypnotizing effect, somehow convincing me that a leather jacket and shades is, like Alex Turner says, “par for the course”…