Review Summary: Who got all this sexy in my Arctic Monkeys?
The Arctic Monkeys are at an interesting crossroads. After exploding onto the scene a decade with sharp-witted punky pop songs the band has changed drastically. While their first two albums largely stuck with the sound that helped them so quickly rise through the ranks; their latest two have left fans divided. On “Humbug” the band let their freak flag fly with psychedelic infused rock songs obviously influenced by their producer Josh Homme. On “Suck it and See” the band slowed the tempos considerably and focused more on the pop side of their genre. The Monkeys have established that they aren’t content to release the same record twice; so it should come as no surprise that “AM” is also a new direction for the band, but one that still sounds like Arctic Monkeys.
The main difference on “AM” is that the monkeys have scaled back considerably. Gone are the fast guitars and drum outburst. In are funky bass lines and falsetto backing vocals. Simplicity seems to be key here as the Monkeys have refined their playing to create less “busy” arrangements. Take album closer “I Wanna be Yours” it’s decidedly sparse with a drum machine and guitar chords played over a poem not written by the band. The lyrics border on being cornball but frontman Alex Turner delivers them in a way that saves face. This same simplicity is also one of the biggest detractors of this album.
Early singles “R U Mine?” and “Do I Wanna Know?” served as a good warm up for the album while the recent release of “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” gave a more accurate preview of the band’s new sound. “High” is pure pop; it’s one of the catchiest tracks on here, but that all it really is. “No. 1 Party Anthem” and “Mad Sounds” suffer similar fates with the latter incorporating a cringe-inducing break of “ooo lalala’s.” Much has been mad over the years of Turner’s biting lyricism and while the album doesn’t have any, “What came first the chicken or the dickhead?” it’s safe to say that turner hasn’t lost his edge. “Knee Socks” finds the band at their funkiest with a vocal bridge sexy enough to be mistaken for Destiny’s Child.
Ultimately, while Arctic Monkeys may have put their spin on yet another genre, something has been lost in translation. The songs for one have become shallower more pop oriented, destined for months of radio play. Musicianship has also taken a backseat in favor of vocal harmonies and hip hop drums and bass. Inevitably more fans will be disappointed with yet another drastic change to the Monkeys sound. Yet, this band has made it clear that they aren’t afraid of experimentation, expect the Arctic Monkeys to co-opt another style for their next record; hopefully they can do it with more conviction than is displayed here.