Arctic Monkeys – “AM”


It has been only two years since we saw the release of “Suck it and See,” which demonstrated that Arctic Monkeys are not just some band from Sheffield that can be replicated. Their sound was louder than the indie band from “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” and lacked that Josh Homme vibe from “Humbug” keeping true to themselves but still advancing their music. During last year’s Record Store Day, the band released “R U Mine,” on a purple 7” which showcased the direction that they would take on their next album, “AM.” This album was also recorded in the US which can be seen through the album, as was seen in “Suck it and See.”

Although we said that the Arctic Monkeys “Humbug” was the bands own downfall and it was something that was what made us more excited for “Suck It and See,” it did change the band and their sound allowing them to grow slowly and give us this album.

As unfortunate as it may be to some people there is no equivalency of their first two albums in “AM,” which although a travesty, is something that makes the band grow and not exploit their hits, allowing them to venture into new sounds and work with different bands and producers. With “Suck it and See” being their first album recorded in the US, it opened their style to a more American audience, which is once again reflected here.  This is to say that the band has lost the indie title it once so proudly held and moved on to be undefined, which allows the band to changes it sound as it grows without truly disappointing genre specific audiences.

DrummerTechnically “R U Mine,” was the first unofficial single from their latest album which gave us a louder more grown up version of the boys we knew from “Florescent Adolescent.” The song came out on YouTube February 2012 and was a sample of the new look and attitude of the band. After recording in Sage and Sound Recording Studios in Los Angeles the band entrusted James Ford once again with their fifth full length studio album adding to the list of variety in their sound.

It can be seen in “Arabella” which starts of a bit mystifying with soft vocal by Alex Turner and a calm vibe that builds perfectly with the perfect amount of guitar and rock in the chorus, not deviating from the atmosphere created by the verses with lines such as “And when she needs to shelter from reality she takes a dip in my daydreams.”  Although these lyrics are endearing and powerful, there is usually a track from the band that is psychedelic and surreal, which is fulfilled by every other line of this song.

This time the band added the simplistic rock elements and exploited them while adding Turner’s vocals to make a perfect rhythm track which was the first official single from the album “Do I Wanna Know?”  The simple drum beat and guitar creates the perfect emersion which is only complimented by lyrics that enhance the simplistic plucking of the bass through the verse, “Been wondering if your hearts still open and if so I want to know what time it shuts.” This track is sexual seduction, a gritty old school sound with the ambiguity of lust and frustration which is why the tempo is structured starting calm and ending intensely and suddenly.

Arctic MonkeysThere are still a few more traces of “Humbug,” in the album with more melancholy tracks such as “I Wanna Be Yours,” that is soothing, giving the right backup vocals matching the rhythm of Turner’s voice while still holding a bit of an old school rock with it being one of the more moderately calm tracks in the album as well as in the bands discography. The synth gives the track a great touch with the guitar still remaining true to the sounds of Arctic Monkeys. This can also be seen on the track, “One for the Road,” which is the perfect combination of a verse that sounds a bit dark and has the classic build up instrumentally to end the song suddenly claiming that, “The mixture hits you hard. Don’t get that sinking feeling, don’t fall apart”

After having toured with The Black Keys for a few months there are a few influences of the guitar Dan Auerbach offers in this album. “Knee Socks,” if heard only instrumentally is almost identical to the style of The Black Keys with the guitar and drums resembling a bit of the track, “Sister.” Although it does have that style, there are still element which make it an Arctic Monkeys track such as the backing vocals and reverb that makes the track a bit different, but only slightly as to avoid duplication of an already popular band.

Humbug“Mad Sounds,” also has The Black Keys synth in the background but still holding a west coast vibe to it and lyrically a track from “Humbug,” saying, “Love buckles under the strain of those wild nights.” Contrary to this, we have “No. 1 Party Anthem,” which is a memory of the soundtrack Alex Turner did for the film Submarine or and equivalence to “Love is a Lazerquest,” from “Suck it and See.”

“Why’d You Only Call Me When Your High?” is a track that sounds and has a different style than when they started, but lyrically it could have been on their first album giving explicit detail about certain events such as in, “Still Take You Home,” and “From the Ritz to the Rubble.”

Although they do not return to their original sound, the band does have a few English sounding tracks such as, “Snap Out Of It,” which is a reminder of Babyshambles (Pete Doherty), Beady Eye, or Miles Kane. “Fireside,” is a long lost brother of a track from The Last Shadow Puppets (Miles Kane, Alex Turner, and James Ford), which is a bit surprising to see it take this many years to see that project influence the band. It has an orchestral piece in it that was arranged perfectly with the band, reenacting the musical composition that Turner and Ford had before working with Arctic Monkeys.

Now that the band has taken its self from a specific genre and style, it is finally able to bring in influences from their experiences over the past years, finally giving the flexibility they needed to evolve.

“I don’t think we have any worries you know about people staying with us as we sort of evolve. I don’t think anyone wants us to continue or return to the approach we had seven years ago or whatever,” Alex Turner told NME and we cannot agree more.

 

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The Top 25 Albums of 2011:


  1. Arctic Monkeys – “Suck It and See” (A review of the album: http://wp.me/p1Jn8q-7F )
  2. The Vaccines – “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” (A review of the album: http://wp.me/p1Jn8q-6Y)
  3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” (A review of the album: http://wp.me/p1Jn8q-85 )
  4. Radiohead – “ The King of Limbs”
  5. James Blake – “James Blake” (A Review of the Album: http://wp.me/p1Jn8q-8U )
  6. The Black Keys – “El Camino”
  7. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”
  8. The Horrors – “Skying”
  9. The Joy Formidable – “The Big Roar”
  10. The Head and the Heart – “The Head and the Heart”
  11. Mates of State – “Mountaintops”
  12. Death Cab for Cutie – “Codes and Keys”
  13. White Lies – “Ritual”
  14. Smith Westerns – “Dye It Blonde”
  15. The Strokes – “Angles”
  16. Bon Iver – “Bon Iver”
  17. Coldplay – “Mylo Xyloto”
  18. TV on the Radio – “Nine Types of Light”
  19. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
  20. little hurricane – “Homewrecker”
  21. EMA – “’Past Life Martyred Saints”
  22. Bjork – “Biophilia”
  23. Kasabian – “Velociraptor!”
  24. tUnE-yArDs– “WhoKill”
  25. Battles – “Gloss Drop”

Arctic Monkeys – “Suck It and See”


“Suck It and See” – Arctic Monkeys

(The headline picture as well as the two last ones in this blog are pictures taken by me at their show earlier this year)

This four piece English band which formed in 2002 in Sheffield, UK is composed of Alex Turner (lead vocals, Lead/rhythm guitar), Jamie Cook (rhythm/lead guitar), Nick O’Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Matt Helders (drums, percussion, backing vocals). They have released their fourth full-length album, “Suck It and See.” This album is a dramatic shift in sound with comparison to their previous album, “Humbug,” in every aspect of the style, lyrics, and presentation of the album. It was recorded in Los Angeles and there are certain American factors and notions that can be seen in this English bands album. “Suck it and See,” was released on June 6th 2011.

Looking back at Humbug we recollect the singles from that album such as, “Crying Lightning,” and “Cornerstone,” which were aimed for an older audience, is serious and dark, and is profound instrumentally. The vocals were perfect and the instruments overlapped each other in a masterful way that showed the new found maturity of the band. During their tour they played nearly every song from “Humbug,” and showed a different side of them from their second album, which made them in the top forty in the UK charts, “Favourite Worst Nightmare.” “Humbug” though was a success but was not completely well received by all because of the lack of fun and up-beat style “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” had with songs like “Brainstorm,” and “Florescent Adolescent.” At a first glance I had some trouble accepting “Suck It and See,” as the next big album because of Josh Homme, which took the band out of their normal realm and into a darker and wilder musical world for “Humbug.” There are those who wish to see the band return to their roots and write the next “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” but I instead liked the new direction of the band. I saw “Suck It and See,” as a step back for the band, but this is a great album which has broadened the reach of the band finally to America. “Suck It and See,” is the break and push that the band needed to finally jump across the pond and reach the American Audience with its style and scheme of guitar driven themes as well as the return of the obscene drumming from Nick O’Malley. Turner said “I think the new album is a balance between our first three. There’s nothing about taxi ranks or anything like that, but there’s a bit of the standpoint I had on those early songs and the sense of humour, but also there’s a bit of the “Humbug” stuff which is kind of off in the corners.”

We have traces of “Humbug,” in this album with songs like “Piledriver Waltz,” which have Alex singing tranquilly and have vocals that are soothing with lyrics that make little to no sense but are still refreshing. With that the next song is the calm and is the harmonious song of this album, by which I mean that Arctic Monkeys traditionally have a song like this per album. Previously the entire album was nearly like this but mainly was “Cornerstone,” and on “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” it was “Only Ones Who Knew,” and finally on “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I am Not,” it is “Riot Van.” “Love Is a Laserquest,” is the calm and melodic song that is driven by a gentle hand on the guitar and drums with soothing and calm vocals that do no whisper to the listener but instead speak.

Continuing with using “Humbug,” as a reference we get a song like, “All My Own Stunts,” which at first was my preferred song on this album. Though I was still attempting to keep the idea of “Humbug” I realized this song was derived from the experience they previously had and just used the reverb and tones from previous song and incorporated that into a new song. It sound similar to, “Dangerous Animals,” in a sense but is only a comparison and not a definition of the song.

We then are able to see more traces of, “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” in songs like “Black Treacle,” which are driven by a lead guitar and have flowing lyrics as well as sound fun and uplifting with a very catchy chorus. “Now it’s getting dark. And the sky looks sticky. More like black treacle than tar. Black treacle. Somebody told the stars. You’re not coming out tonight. And so they found a place to hide.” It is a bit of a memory of “Florescent Adolescent” with the lengthy and catchy chorus which we all love from the band. It also has those hallucinogenic lyrics to which give the lyrics narcotic allusions. “Reckless Serenade” is another song which resembles a few pieces and bits of songs from “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” as well as some of “Humbug.” It has the playfulness as well as the masterful tone and vibrant sounds. These songs have no real meaning to them other than the meaning of enjoyment for the listener which works perfectly for these songs since the structure is well done and the tone of the vocals and instruments is on par with each other that a lack of meaning lyrically is not a burden.

We then have songs which are just bits and pieces of their albums collectively and merge to make a completely new sound and atmosphere that the band has founded with this album. Each album is different holding different styles and tempos. Ever since we saw their profound and deep immersion into music with songs like “505,” and then turn to be playful and just go at it with, “Teddy Picker,” we look for that now in this album. Though we lack the deep and narrative driven lyrics like we did in their previous albums, we get the playful and fun with songs like, “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala,” and get the deep music through a not so dark medium as seen in “Suck It and See.”

The other songs on this album are the ones which are more American based as well as harder and louder than the previous songs done by the band. The first single released to the public, “Brick by Brick,” is a song which sounds similar to their sound in “Whatever People Say I Am, That is Now What I Am,” but is more Americanized yet still keeping their own sound. This song is a psychedelic guitar with a heavy bass line that follows and drums that kick the pace to a faster and harder level. The lyrics are too repetitive and being the first single meant that it was the only song out there, hearing “Brick by Brick,” over and over again got tiresome at first. It is an acquired taste to finally like this song which eventually did gain its appeal on me.

Another song which surpassed the threshold of the band is “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.” The lyrics once again make no sense but the guitar is the driving force of the song being the powerful and raw instrument which makes the song. Alex Turner’s vocals sound different, deeper, and a bit darker in this song which differs from his vocals in any other album. The song is hard and sounds Americanized to an extent but is still Arctic Monkeys. This song is the bands attempt to differ themselves from having a fan base of bands like Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and Oasis and obtain a completely different following. The lyrics are fun and playful considering the intensity of the song, “Do the macarena in the devils lair. But just don’t sit down cause’ I’ve moved your chair.” This was the second song released to the public before the album came out giving fans an in depth look at the variety of the album. With this sneak peek there was an obscene amount of nostalgia surrounding this album.

Turner said: “I think it’s pretty frantic at times. It has its moments that are a bit more like the chimey guitar thing, like reverberated out that occurs in quite a lot of the songs and I suppose that does give it quite a mellow aspect. I guess probably compared with the first two, it is not as fast and crazy. But it has moments like that.”

The song which brings the band to the traditional Arctic Monkeys sound created by songs like, “If You Were There, Beware” and “Pretty Visitors,” is “Library Pictures.” It starts of already with the drums going at full speed to be accompanied by guitar feedback, pulsating bass, and a running rhythm guitar. The song is loud and raises the expectations of the build only to go down and stay at a steady pace for a verse. It then picks up where it left off and finished the build with a well done and mind blowing out of control beat. This just like “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved your Chair,” is playful lyrically ending with, “Give me an eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Or an ip dip, dog shit, rock and roll”

“Suck It and See,” is currently the single being played and is toping the UK charts and deserves to be the single of this album. This song is playful and one of the main themes of this album with referring to love. The song is sweet and mellow and sounds like a traditional Arctic Monkeys song with a slight twist that cannot be explained and has to be heard. The lyrics are moving and progress the song moving the listener to a simpler and memorable time such as their previous songs in other albums didThe sprightful lyrics are memorable and leave a lasting mark. “I poured my aching heart into a pop song. I couldn’t get the hang of poetry. That’s not a skirt girl that’s a sawn off shotgun. And I can only hope you’ve got it aimed at me”

Sources:

http://www.nme.com/news/arctic-monkeys/57127

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arctic_Monkeys