New Arctic Monkeys album delivers diverse set of rock songs
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 01:09
As the saying goes, you can’t please everyone, but it seems like on their new album Arctic Monkeys does just that. On “AM,” the band’s most recent release, the Arctic Monkeys have reached a whole new level of musical maturity, finding just the right balance between delivering hits and continuing to push the boundaries of various genres. Everyone from hip-hop fans to old school metal buffs will find themselves nodding along to this record, which debuted in the United States on Sept. 6.
The British group made its grand entrance into the music scene in 2005, when the album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” took the world by storm as the fastest-selling debut album in British history. Since then, Arctic Monkeys have always had something new up their sleeves. From the blaringly fast “Favourite Worst Nightmare” (2007) to the croons of “Suck It and See” (2011), they have covered the vast expanse of the rock genre.
Stylistically, the newest album is similar to the previous one. Lyrical bass lines, spacey guitar tones and layers of harmonies are abundant, producing an overall psychedelic feel. Singer Alex Turner’s drowsy voice complements the mix perfectly, adding a melodic element to the songs. But “AM” takes things further and makes up for what “Suck It and See” lacked: hooks. Almost every track contains a really groovy riff with R&B-inspired drumbeats pulsing throughout, creating a dancehall vibe.
The opening track, “Do I Wanna Know?” sets the bar high for the rest of the album. It starts out with a basic beat, which intensifies as the distorted guitar riff kicks in. Falsetto vocals paired with a droning guitar riff are reminiscent of the band Queens of the Stone Age, whose singer Josh Homme has collaborated with Arctic Monkeys in the past. The song is a seamless combination of dark and catchy, with the tension reaching its peak each time the refrain of “crawling back to you” comes around before the chorus. Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of “Do I Wanna Know?” is the vulnerability revealed in Turner’s lyrics. For once, he sheds his usual trend of witty commentary and wild nights and confesses, “Maybe I’m too busy being yours to fall for somebody new.”
Another standout from the album is “Arabella,” the heavy fourth track. Sparse, reverberated verses are followed by an in-your-face tribute to Black Sabbath in the chorus. Even though the song mimics the stops and drum clicks of Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the ensuing chords build on the classic metal riff rather than just copy it. Guitarist Jamie Cook tops off the homage with a shredding guitar solo which later becomes more melodic. That Turner sounds nothing like Ozzy Osbourne, grounds the song in the signature style developed by Arctic Monkeys.
Several mellow songs characterize the middle of the album, the best of them being the ironically-titled “No. 1 Party Anthem.” The chorus of the ballad pleads, “Come on, come on, come on / before the moment’s gone.” Quite beautiful in its minimalism, it evokes distressing images of Turner’s lonely nights spent at dizzying parties. Unfortunately, the other slow tunes can be a bit boring, simply because of their consecutive placement, perhaps the one flaw of the album.
Later songs return to the upbeat standard established in the first few tracks. The most radio-friendly is probably “Knee Socks,” which features Josh Homme’s slick vocals and a riff that vaguely resembles the 80s pop song “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega. Similarly, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” is said to be influenced by Dr. Dre. A drunk booty-call saga, the track is driven by the rhythm section, headed by drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley. These two songs prove that Artics Monkeys can write some real hits without losing touch with their alt-rock origins.
For whatever reason, Arctic Monkeys have not reached the same amount of success in the U.S. as they have in the U.K. Perhaps “AM” will do the trick with its diverse collection of hard rock, pop and rhythmic tunes. It is sonically pleasing, lyrically insightful and musically diverse. Most impressive is the cohesive nature of the songs — they fit together beautifully.
It comes as no surprise that “AM” has already topped the British albums chart and that the band made history once again with its fifth number one album in a row. Arctic Monkeys’ North American tour started on Sept. 15, and their Boston show was sold out, so their future looks bright. It’s high time for another British Invasion; let the Monkeys lead the way.