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AM
Arctic Monkeys AM
Released 6 September 2013
Producer(s) James Ford, Ross Orton
Label Domino
Length 41:43
Genre Rock
Website arcticmonkeys.com
82

Anyone who was there to see Arctic Monkeys’ headline performance on Sunday of Electric Picnic a couple of weeks back would have seen a taut, muscular performance from the kings of indie-rock this side of the Atlantic. They’ve come a long way since the callow, unkempt youths played Whelans in 2005 and Malahide Castle a couple of years later. Alex Turner, sporting a Teddy-boy quiff, now comes off like a dapper young Sheffield Elvis, showing the onstage charisma and showmanship only touring the world for the guts of a decade can give you. And if the new album is anything to go by, it seems the crown lies easily on his head.

AM is the English quartet’s fifth since Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not exploded onto a fairly stagnant music scene in early 2006, becoming the then fastest-selling debut album in British history. From the moody overdriven riffs of opener 'Do I Wanna Know' onwards, the band show they have distilled their various early influences – The Jam, The Strokes, The Libertines – and matured into a more eclectic proposition by far. A criticism of one or two of the last albums was a propensity for murkiness, both musical and lyrical, which discouraged repeated listening. Hard rock elements still dominate the first half of the album - especially the scuzzy drive of standout tracks 'Arabella' and the album opener – but the lazy languor of 'No. 1 Party Anthem' ushers in a new direction, with Turner’s once shouty voice ripening into the honeyed croon of a Las Vegas lounge lizard. In recent years the band has decamped en masse to LA, and you can nearly see the palm trees swaying with the ‘ooh-la-la-la’s of 'Mad Sounds' and the ‘Shoo-wop shoo-wop’s of 'Fireside'. Likewise, the West-coast contemporary R’n’B/funk influence is just as clear on 'Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?' and 'Knee Socks', with its falsetto guest backing vocal from long-term collaborator, Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age fame).

One of the band’s big hits from Whatever was 'Fake Tales of San Francisco', making that geographic dislocation a little circumspect. If anything though, Turner’s acutely observed lyrics of love gone - or going – awry seem even richer and more authentic than the debut’s chronicles of nights out on the pull in Sheffield night clubs. Again, the experience gained during those years of multiple world tours would most likely do that for you. Romantic one-liners like, "Been wondering if your heart’s still open and if so I wanna know what time it shuts" ('Do I Wanna Know') and "It’s not like I’m falling in love, I just want you to do me no good and you look like you could" ('No. 1 Party Anthem') also accentuate the more late night, adult feel to the album – I don’t think it’s any coincidence the title AM can refer to the wee small hours either.

So looks like Arctic Monkeys are with us for the long haul. With more albums like this, music is all the better for it. Long live the kings.

- Cian Doherty