10 years in and keeping it oh-so-fresh, Arctic Monkeys are doing what they want on their 5th album, AM. Despite their initial rise to the top with the outspoken support of a rabid fanbase, the Sheffield foursome are not at all concerned with catering to the expectations of their listeners. That is, unless that expectation is for the band to constantly evolve. In case it’s been a while since tuning in, AM has none of the frenetic punk-revival explosions of the first two albums. The band started to stretch out and breathe on 2009’s Humbug and has never looked back. It was then that the band first collaborated with Queens of the Stone Age sludgemeister Josh Homme on a dozen or so tracks, who has come back to visit on this effort.
The record opens with “Do I Wanna Know,” a riff-driven one-two mass of sexually driven angst, delivered with Alex Turner’s cool-as-a-cucumber wit. “R U Mine” sounds off with a classic Arctic Monkeys vocal motif, but rather than kick in to a race car beat, the song is decidedly mid-tempo and Sabbath-y in its guitar bombast. “One for the Road” is dark and voluptuous, with sweet octave vocals that add so much. “Arabella” is more classic metal, sounding very “War Pigs” at times, and some rather interesting doubled voices– not a treatment you’re used to hearing. “I Want It All” plods along with nothing particularly distinct, but fades out to make way for the PHENOMENAL “No. 1 Party Anthem.” This sweet ballad, with its “come on come on come on” is perfect Alex Turner sarcasm in its most beautiful form, a great end to side one.
“Mad Sounds” is a soft morning sunshine track, sounding much like the Velvet Underground with Turner doing his very best Lou Reed. “Fireside” is tense, with tom-heavy beats and surging organs, and even a disembodied “shoo-wop shoo-wop,” sounding like ghosts of the ’60s. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” is an obvious single, with such a universal message. Walking the Motown boulevard is easy with the preachy “Snap Out of It.”
The intro guitar on “Knee Socks” is delicious, and is a classic as it is contemporary. As with many songs here, there is the right amount of suspense and sex, and half of this record could very well be a make out record. Highly fitting that the album concludes with “I Wanna Be Yours,” a rewrite of punk poet John Cooper Clarke’s poem. But Turner’s delivery is so on point you’d think the words were his. And what better way for a band that is constantly pushing forward than to refresh a classic?