Review Summary: Dance me to the end of love
If anyone ever challenges the social tolerance towards and marketability of grown men singing about their emotions, the answer it seems is that it is absolutely fine if it is underscored by pulsating bass lines and a healthy dose of self deprecation.
If you were to search around for reviews of Arctic Monkeys' fifth album 'AM' you will find scores of quotes describing in enthusiastic detail its allusions to rockstar style easy sex and good purity drugs. Few manages or wants to dig deeper into the emotional honesty laid bare in its lyrics, even though it's already served up plain and simple by Alex Turner within the first stanza of the first song - 'I dreamt about you near me every night this week/Cos there's this tune that makes me think of you somehow, and I play it every night, til I fall asleep, spilling drinks on my settee' are lines that wouldn't read out of place on Beck's sob-along classic Sea Change, rather than being blasted out at awards ceremonies backed by pyrotechnics.
The hip-hop influences on the album have often been commented on. But rather tracing its roots to the 90s and Dre and Tupac, its closer influences are the more recent movements in hip-hop towards the acceptance of male fragility. Pioneered by the Kanye West record that initially beguiled, '808s and Heartbreak', and since then expanded on and exported by the likes of Drake and The Weeknd, Arctic Monkeys are similarly motivated by making songs you can simultaneously dance and brood to. 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High' opens like a lost Aaliyah single and then proceeds to relay the tale of a heart that struggles to mend. While the concluding lines 'You're starting to bore me baby, why'd you only call me when you're high?' could almost be a tribute to Drake's 'Marvin's Room'
Social media was awash with comments deriding Alex Turner's Elvis-like enunciations at Arctic Monkey's headline set at Glastonbury 2013, but it's no surprise as Arctic Monkeys are clearly as inspired by the expansiveness and openness of American culture and landscapes as the wry northern wit that characterised their earlier albums. 'Fireside' and 'Mad Sounds' demonstrate a nod to barbershop quartets and rockabilly grooves, while 'Arabella' is a snarling piece of psych-rock that wears its Josh Homme influences proudly with lyrics that evoke border town escapades with a Mexican femme fatale.
Before you could level accusations of roots-denying and Transatlantic tax-dodger too strongly at the Monkeys, they end the album with a rendering of John Cooper Clarke's 'I Wanna Be Yours', with all its undeniably old school Britain references to Ford Cortinas and 'leccy metres, underscoring the same delicate air of desperation as what began the album - 'You call the shots babe, I just wanna be yours'. It seems that longings and pinings have and always will transcend borders, musical genres, cultures and moments in time. This album certainly makes its distinctive mark in the timeline of that universal theme.