The Arctic Monkeys, despite being loved enough in their native England that they were chosen to represent the nation in a performance at the 2012 Summer Olympics, have failed to garner the same rabid enthusiasm across the pond. An excited American audience hasn't developed despite their 2006 debut—and subseuquent albums—receiving critical acclaim.
But with their fifth album, “AM,” Arctic Monkeys may finally pull it off.
“AM” marks a definite departure from the heavy, punky songs about grimy Sheffield clubs that the band became famous for, but one that feels natural given the band’s increasingly American image and style. Their old influences—Oasis, the Clash, the Smiths, and the Strokes—are less evident here, and have been replaced with hip-hop beats topped with sexy guitar work.
This may be disappointing for die-hard fans of the band’s earlier material, but for anyone who appreciates rock and roll, the album will not disappoint.
The album’s second single, “Do I Wanna Know?” serves as a strong opener. It’s perhaps not the band’s most dramatically different song, but it’s filled with the hip-hop rhythms and slick guitar stylings found throughout “AM.” “R U Mine?”—one of the album’s heavier tracks—practically begs to be blasted out a car window while speeding down a highway.
Many of the songs run in this vein, some more explicitly (one of the tracks is dubbed “One for the Road”), while others simply cultivate a desire to speed off and get into a bit of trouble, like “Arabella.”
In a departure from the more traditional rock songs, the album’s hip-hop and R&B influences surface most notably on the bass-driven “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” Another standout is the poppier, upbeat “Snap Out of It,” a danceable song that would make for great radio play.
“AM” also includes slower tracks, some more convincing than others. From the waltzy “No.1 Party Anthem” to the Lou Reed-y, “ooh-la”-filled “Mad Sounds,” the effort is solid, despite occasionally missing the mark. The album’s closer, “I Wanna Be Yours,” drags a bit, as if the band ran out of gas. Consequently, listeners may prefer to stop on the catchy guitar hooks of the preceding track, “Knee Socks.”
Alex Turner’s lyrics remain as full of outlandish imagery as always, though perhaps infused with even more sexual desire. If the guitar weren’t enough, Turner is both coy and up-front lyrically, teasing with “It’s not like I’m falling in love/I just want you to do me no good” (“No.1 Party Anthem”) and getting more explicit with “(Rubs her lips) ‘round a Mexican Coke/(Makes you wish) that you were the bottle” (“Arabella”).
The other band members contribute vocally more than on any album, with drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley singing outer space-y background on many of the tracks (“One For The Road,” “Arabella,” “Knee Socks”).
The Arctic Monkeys have been subtly building up to this sound, evolving gracefully from pub punks to leather jacket-clad rock stars. After more than 10 years, “AM” is a clear call for American acceptance, and this time, it isn’t likely to be ignored.
“AM” will be available for purchase and download on Sept. 10. It is currently available for streaming on iTunes.