AM by Arctic Monkeys | Album Review
An album filled with lust, contemplation, and a whole new sound for the boys from Sheffield
The Arctic Monkeys are set to make their return on October 21st with their 7th studio album The Car. In anticipation, I felt it was timely to take a look back at their 2013 offering AM. Aside from its connection to the Tumblr era circa 2014, it carried a handful of catchy tunes and ushered in a suave side to the boys from Sheffield that catapulted them into the mainstream.
Stylistically AM also showcased how the band changes its sound with each album. They channeled stoner rock on Humbug and explored spacey lounge pop on 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, their most recent album and arguably their most expansive-sounding project. Writer Paul Barrnes explains more about this in his review which you can check out here.
Lead singer Alex Turner described the sound of AM as such:
“like a Dr. Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.”
In lamens terms, there’s more emphasis on West Coast hip-hop elements and a leaning towards blues and traditional rock n roll this time around. Thanks to the help of Joshua Homme. The Queens of the Stone Age frontman was brought on to help produce AM, and his influence can be felt throughout the entire album. Namely in the overall grooviness and atmosphere of the whole album. There’s something quite grandiose in the overall production, like the shift from an indie movie to a full-blown major motion picture.
AM ranges from the high octane energy of “R U Mine?” and “I Want It All” to the R&B tinges of “One For The Road”. There’s also room for a few ballroom ballads such as “№1 Party Anthem”. Stylistically I think AM reaches its peak on the standout single “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” I find this track is where the heavy, West Coast and slight R&B influences really shine with the song’s rhythm and overall vibe.
Lyrically AM offers a more mature side to the band. Gone are the days of the band’s tirades of the UK nightlife as AM centers itself around lust and uncertainty. Essentially dealing with the aftermaths of flirtatious flings and one-night stands with lead singer Alex Turner displaying his ever-conflicting and at times, paranoid train of thought. Flipping between infatuation and denial over the course of the album.
The opener “Do I Wanna Know?” sets the stage for the events to come, as Alex ponders his relationship status with his lover. The song’s chorus reveals his apprehension as he asks them: (“Do I wanna know? If this feelin’ flows both ways? Sad to see you go, was sorta hopin’ that you’d stay”). Regardless of where they stand, Alex has fallen head over heels as he’s become enamored by this woman on “R U Mine?”
His mood shifts on “One for the Road”, perhaps maybe this was just another fling, but there’s something about this new lover Alex can’t shake as he delves into her beauty on “Arabella” with lines like: (“And her lips are like the galaxy’s edge and her kiss the colour of a constellation fallin’ into place.”). Alex’s rockstar persona takes hold as his desperation to make every woman his lover becomes the focal point of the energetic “I Want It All”, providing more insight into his obsession with this new woman.
“Fireside” is filled with more contemplation and indecisiveness as the realization that maybe there was nothing there after all. Meanwhile “Why’d You Only Call…” shows off Alex’s drunken paranoia as he imagines seeing this woman everywhere, leaving multiple messages to try and get one more chance. (“Now, it’s three in the mornin’, and I’m tryna’ change your mind. left you multiple missed calls and to my message you reply.”).
Thematically AM reaches its conclusion starting with “Snap Out of It”, realizing this relationship was nothing more than infatuation. “Knee Socks” sees Alex wonder about the “what could have been’s” (“You and me could have been a team each had a half of a king and queen seat like the beginning of Mean Streets, you could be my baby.”). Album closer “I Wanna Be Yours”, an adaptation of the John Cooper Clarke poem of the same name, returns to the fleeting feelings that despite everything Alex still can’t get over this woman. Ending the album’s story and leaving listeners guessing as to what could happen next. Does something real truly blossom? Or does this cycle of “she loves me, she loves me not” doomed to continue?
Overall the Arctic Monkeys’ 2013 album is a stellar and at times, sensual addition to their discography. Seeing them take hold of some more American influences and delivering an album that offers a different side to romance was a sound choice. It’s certainly their most mainstream offering per se but still carries the nuances of their past indie works from years prior. I’d give AM a solid 9/10. Personally speaking, it’s grown to become one of my favourites from the band and is one of many albums I’ll be listening to as we await the arrival of The Car dropping next Friday.
Final Rating: 9/10
Favourite Tracks: Do I Wanna Know, R U Mine? One for the Road, I Want it All, Fireside, Snap Out of It, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? Knee Socks.
Stream AM by the Arctic Monkeys: Apple Music | Spotify