Studies have suggested that boys don’t reach full maturity until their late twenties, a finding that apparently epitomises the Arctic Monkeys. Slick, sexy and oh-so-smooth, AM marks the dawn of a whole new era of the Arctics: All grown up.
They tried out lad rock in their early releases, before discovering their darker, heavier side in Humbug and Suck It And See. But this time, Alex Turner and pals have gone off in a whole new direction: one that oozes style, screams omnipotence, and hints at a newfound arrogance. Behold the romantic side of Alex Turner, his swooning lyrics matching that new slick hairstyle he’s now flaunting.
Much of AM is simply unrecognizable, acres apart from their older material, yet not an unwelcome change. With each new album we expect their drive to finally wane, awaiting their eventual downfall, but it never comes. On AM, Turner decides to shift his focus to the post-production, exploring hip-hop directions and stating Dr. Dre as the inspiration. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
The help of new bezza Josh Homme on the record is transparent, his expertise clearly rubbing off on Turner. Yet the Arctics do occasionally slip into the dangerous territory of becoming a QOTSA tribute act, the over-use of Homme’s trademark falsetto becoming almost too domineering, as it surfaces constantly throughout the album.
We are eased in gradually, with the beginning of the record more akin to the Arctic’s typical side. “Do I Wanna Know,” the effortlessly smooth opener, is the sexy successor of the Humbug era, bouncing off the sensual riff of Turner’s guitar. The frontman sings of burgeoning desires for his lover, pining for her each night “until I fall asleep, spilling drinks on my settee”.
Drifting into “R U Mine,” the second track of the album, we follow similar musings, as Turner, the ever-imaginative lyricist, references Tracy Island and his tortured “puppet on a string” state. The track is heavy on guitar, and arguably the most reminiscent of vintage Arctic Monkeys.
“One For The Road” is where the Homme influence really emanates, and incidentally where the album begins its new direction. We hear the hip-hop influences in the chorus as the falsetto backing vocals protrude all the way through. It’s a curious song, one that is difficult to comprehend due to its uncharacteristic style.
At the mid-way point, Turner charms us with his seductive ballads. “No. 1 Party Anthem” is a true monster of a track, John Lennon-esque in its style. Coupled with the distressed “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” these are easily the album’s golden moments.
Fulfilling all it’s hype, AM is a stylish masterpiece. Although there is the odd flop – namely “Mad Sounds”: a dull ballad concealed at the record’s midpoint – it’s a mature and classy fifth production. Turner, taking on his new Teddy Boy persona, will no doubt win over the hearts of the nation, as he croons his slick love songs across the globe.