Let’s get past the bullshit early. Title wise, abbreviating your own band name is pretty mundane. It’s a week idea probably stolen from the Velvet Underground. Something like Smooth & Sexual might have been better, because that’s exactly what it is. Alex Turner and company’s fifth go-around, a far removal from their first album, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, is an odyssey of the night that gorgeously blends rock ’n’ roll mentalities with the hyper-sexualized contemporary music scene.
My first initiation to the coolness that is the Arctic Monkeys was the band’s very first single, 2005’s “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” which was one of frontman Alex Turner’s many social commentaries on the Sheffield nightlife. It’s hard, fast, and the kind of music a teenager like me was totally into. This album is what that song isn’t. This album is, for both the Arctic Monkeys and myself, a dose of adulthood.
AM is more sinister than the last outings, leaving behind the insecurity of youth. You can catch hints of this shift in sound in tracks like “My Propeller” from the band’s third album Humbug, produced in part by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age fame, or in “Evil Twin,” the B-side to its single “Suck It and See” from the album of the same name. AM takes the band to mostly uncharted territory. And it works.
The opener, and second single from the album, “Do I Wanna Know?” punches you in the gut with its bassline, and Turner’s brooding lyrical mastery is on full display. “R U Mine?” the second track and first single, released back in 2012 in the infancy of the album, really knocks your teeth in with its in-your-face attitude, touching on the insecurities of one-night-stands and the longing for some loving. “Arabella,” a Led Zeppelin-esque ballad, is the real knockout, the last thirty or so seconds consisting of the most killer guitar work on the album.
But, AM doesn’t thrive solely on its harder rock components. “I Want It All” is a soft rhythmic lull in the album, but still manages to make me feel like sitting in a dark room and doing bad things. “No. 1 Party Anthem” is anything but dance party worthy; it’s the slow ballad that would have played during your 8th grade mixer where you were too nervous to ask the pretty girl out onto the floor. “Knee Socks” takes its sound from something out of the ‘70s, but does so remarkably well, bringing psychedelic rock to a whole new generation. And “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High,” the album’s third single, is a slow, sexy recounting of late night encounters and inebriated scenes of desperation and longing.
The Arctic Monkeys are the product of Internet hype and guerilla barroom band tactics, but if the band’s first four albums didn’t secure a position as legitimate rock’n’roll bad boys, AM turns the trick. Their boozing, sex-filled nights become our nights, sensual, sordid, and unremarkable, but always worth remembering. AM is the kind of music we all eventually search for, something to relate our experiences to.