Exposed Sneak Peek on Arctic Monkeys new album!
You can’t help but feel that the Arctic Monkeys don’t belong to us anymore. Gone are the lines about drunken scraps in taxi ranks, traded in for nights rubbing shoulders with A-listers in Los Angeles. This isn’t to say that anyone should begrudge them their success, but when Alex Turner comes out and says that their fifth album ‘sounds like Dr. Dre’, you wonder how the new surroundings are impacting upon the music of a band whose careers were launched on the back of their everyman-humility.
This isn’t an old debate of course, rather the natural progression of the self-fulfilling prophecy Turner first identified when he bellowed “bring on the backlash!” all those years ago on ‘Who the Fuck are the Arctic Monkeys?’
Just as well then, that ‘AM’ starts by sounding like the band know they once again have a point to prove. The brooding rhythm and persistent beat on ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ gives the impression of a boxer entering the ring, followed by ‘R U Mine’ throwing its weight around like the opening track’s much harder, older sibling – the transition to fully fledged rockstars already seems complete.
But, we expected that from this record – the V8 powered nod to the Black Keys that is ‘I Want It All’ comes as no surprise. What is most intriguing about ‘AM’, however, are the lyrics. There’s only one track – ‘Arabella’ – with its description of a ‘little lady’ who looks good in the sunset, which could be seen as a disappointing departure into the glitzy stratosphere they now inherit.
The overwhelming theme, on the other hand, is longing. When Turner states, “I’ve dreamt about you every night this week…” (‘Do I Wanna Know?) or, “I just cannot manage to make it through the day without thinking of you lately,” (‘Fireside’) the leather-clad, shades down persona is immediately washed away. Instead, he becomes thoroughly relatable via his loneliness. He’s just another man sending ill informed, drunken texts at 3am (‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’), taking an emotionally intense, street-lamp illuminated drive past ‘all those places we used to go’ on ‘Fireside’ – one of the more understated tracks on the album, but one of the best.
Musically, the Dre influence is perhaps most obvious on the aforementioned ‘…When You’re High?’, which has shades of Mary J Blige’s ‘Family Affair’ about it, and Turner’s often more aggressive delivery of his syllables at times, erring almost completely towards rapping at times on ‘One For the Road’, but the technique is also evident in the second verse of ‘R U Mine’, for example.
‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ – despite possessing a title that immediately fills you with dread – is fortunately nothing of the sort. Rather, it’s a sway inducing ballad which breaks up the album in much the same way as ‘The Only Ones Who Know’ or ‘Cornerstone’ do on ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ and ‘Humbug’ respectively.
When Turner calls out “Come on, come on, come on,” it’s not in the hands-in-the-air sense, but in a melancholic, wistful manner, as the song’s subject goes ‘on the prowl’ with ‘his sunglasses indoors’ – but once again, it’s a persona waiting to be shattered. The line “it’s not like I’m falling in love, I just want you to do me no good and you look like you could,” is symptomatic of a pessimistic take on modern relationships, where the track’s couple will swallow ‘the lumps in their throat’ and get swept away by their ‘drunken monologues’ and ill-advised moments.
‘Snap Out of It’ and ‘Knee Socks’ kick-off a closing triple-salvo during which ‘AM’ descends into darkness. The former bounds along genially enough, but is laced with lines such as “under the spell you’re hypnotised, darling how could you be so blind?” whilst the latter features the whole band chanting in a seemingly accusatory manner during the chorus – it’s unsettling, shadowy and affecting.
The final act of ‘AM’ is ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ and is to document how longing and loneliness can turn into dark, ominous obsession. The warning is in the tone every time a chord is struck, which removes any connotations of innocence from the track-title’s otherwise banal statement. Initially, lines such as “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust,” followed by similar offers with regards to coffee pots and electric meters, seem too prosaic to be taken seriously. Give this song your full attention however, and you realise you’re being given a disturbing insight into the dark-side of unrequited love. When Turner deadpans his offers to fulfil the roles of these basic household items, he’s conveying that he’s reached the height of desperation – “You call the shots babe, I just wanna be yours,” he says, his spirit broken by his fixation.
It’s a haunting end to an on the whole excellent record. To be honest, it won’t be a surprise if those Humbug era knives are sharpened once again, with ‘AM’ probably topping the list as the least ‘easy-listening’ of the Arctic Monkeys’ albums. But it’s also their most mature and intriguing record to date, seamlessly fusing a diverse set of musical influences whilst the character development across the spectrum of Turner’s lyrics could have been inspired by the most disquieting psychological thriller. They may not be ‘ours’ anymore, but who cares when they keep sending across gifts like this?
Words by Lewis Parker.
AM will be released on 9th September.