Anyone who has ever listened to the Arctic Monkeys has heard the song “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor”. That song is the staple of what made freshman effort Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not one of the bestselling debut albums of all time. The entire album is great, sans a few duds that one can overlook seeing as it was their first album. Unfortunately, many dismissed the young British rock group as a single band, a group that soared to popularity because of a lucky break on a single. Well, with the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth album (in seven years!), the group has successfully been able to quash that notion. AM is not only the best Arctic Monkeys album yet, it shows that they have truly become a great band.
Of course, the journey from WPSIATWIN to AM came with trial, error and sacrifice. The Monkeys could never really grasp what made their first album so good in their three following attempts. Favourite Worst Nightmare just felt like a rehash of their previous work, and while Humbug saw Queens of the Stone Age’s Joshua Homme producing, the darker sound didn’t mesh with the pop that had tinged all of their previous works. They had lost the sound that had made them relevant, so they worked with what they had. If you combine Humbug’s darker tendencies with the catchy songwriting and pop sound of their first album, then you get something along the lines of AM, and that’s the best thing that the group could have done.
AM begins with staggering swagger. From instant-classic beginner “Do I Wanna Know?” to one of the darkest songs the band have ever released, “I Want It All”, the listener is swept in a river of late-night hijinks and drug use. If the Arctic Monkeys used to make songs about parties and clubs, then AM is about what happens when the bars close and the fools are set loose on the streets. This is best seen on the falsetto-tinged “One for the Road”, where Turner croons about going back to a girl’s house after partying. Later on the track, when he sings, “The mixture hits you hard/ Don’t get that sinking feeling/ Don’t fall apart,” you know the misadventures can’t last throughout the entire album. And you would be right.
It’s after “I Want It All” that the band begins to sober up. “No. 1 Party Anthem” is perhaps the most ironic song on the album, being one of the slowest songs on the LP. From start to finish the track plays the part of the drunken walks back home, alone. You can almost see a hung-over Turner whistling the tune as the piano sets the mood and a new day is born. Fortunately, it doesn’t end there. After the softest song on the LP, “Mad Sounds”, utters its final “ooo la la”, the party starts all over again.
“Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” is where the swagger truly returns, as Turner attempts to get in touch with a girl while stoned. It’s songs like this that make you remember why Turner was such a revelation when the Monkeys first appeared – his songwriting is endlessly clever. But it’s after this that showstopper “Knee Socks” proves that the band can still make incredible songs. With Josh Homme lending guest vocals, “Knee Socks” is one of the best songs on the album. It’s instantly catchy, has witty lyrics, and Homme’s backup vocals paired with Turner’s are something everyone should hear.
The Arctic Monkeys have accomplished more in seven years than most bands have in fifteen. After three decent follow-ups to their freshman album, they have struck absolute gold with AM. Every track oozes with swagger, the late night scene of Britain brought to dark, beautiful life. It is by far the best Arctic Monkeys album yet, and from start to finish I was never once disappointed. Longtime fans of the group will love it as well as newcomers. As “I Wanna Be Yours” finishes up the album, Turner slovenly murmurs: “If you like your coffee hot/ Let me be your coffee pot/ You call the shots babe/ I just wanna be yours.” You really want him to find what he’s looking for, because even through all the pints and weed, AM is more than a late-night look at Britain. It’s a look into Turner’s heart.