The Arctic Monkeys' fifth album, bearing the abbreviated title AM, persists in proving to us all that their talent is no fluke. Since their viral release of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not in 2006, the quartet--consisting of Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley and Matt Helders--has innovated how we view indie rock. Naturally, their Britishness helps, too. The album, which is an admitted homage to the Velvet Underground record, VU, highlights a more mature (yes, it's a terrible word), seasoned side of Arctic Monkeys.
Opening with the rousing "Do I Wanna Know?", AM has the perfect establishing track for heralding the arrival of Arctic Monkeys after their two year absence (Suck It And See being released in 2011). Alex Turner's lazy tone paired with an overpowering guitar riff sets the tone for the rest of the band's evolutionary sound on this album. "R U Mine?" continues in the same aural vein as "Do I Wanna Know?" as Turner laments, "She's a silver lining climbing on my desire/I go crazy 'cause here isn't where I wanna be/And satisfaction seems like a distant memory." There is something distinctly L.A. about the vibe of the song--perhaps owing to how closely to said city the Arctic Monkeys recorded the album.
"One For the Road" shifts the tone of AM to one of the more Marc Bolan variety--revealing a simultaneous homage to glam and psychedelic rock. This track transitions into the anthemic "Arabella," which wavers in and out of moments of calmness and raucousness. Its similar characteristics to a quintessential 70s rock song also showcases the Arctic Monkeys' recent musical leanings. "I Want It All" starts out with a beat that somehow resembles Gary Glitter's "Hey" as Turner extends and prolongs each of his lyrical utterances. Conveying a vaguely mourning sentiment, Turner sings, "Ain't it just like you to kiss me and then hit the road?" Peppered with the occasional "shoo-op, shoo-op, shoo-op," "I Want It All" combines a range of old school styles.
The ironically titled "No. 1 Party Anthem" is a slow-paced, melancholic song. Turner's crooning voice assures and encourages, "It's not like I'm in love/I just want you to do me no good/It looks like you could." The sound of the music on the track is a throwback to the auditory aesthetic of Turner's work on the Submarine Soundtrack. "Mad Sounds" furthers the laidback tempo established with "No. 1 Party Anthem." Again, the track bears the lilt and motif of a late 60s or mid-70s hit. Turner throws in some "ooh la la la la oohs" as he sings, "Mad sounds in your ear make you get up and dance." It's another lyrical contrast considering the pacing of the song.
"Fireside" has a certain Latin flair in terms of its guitar sound--upbeat and light. One of the best offerings on AM, the simplicity of "Fireside" is what makes it so memorable. Turner asks, "Isn't it hard to make up your mind when you're losing and your fuse is fireside?" He continues in a philosopher's tone with, "I'm not sure what I've found/Has it gone for good?" The third single from AM, "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", has a decidedly European tinge (think The Streets). The song differentiates itself from others on the album in that it's one of the only ones to actually paint a picture and give us a story as Turner describes, "Now it's three in the morning/And I'm trying to change your mind."
"Snap Out of It"--not inspired by that scene from Moonstruck--possesses a more danceable air as Turner frustratedly conveys, "I wanna grab both of your shoulders and shake, baby, snap out of it." Following is the second to last track, "Knee Socks," which slows down the pace again as we approach the album's close. Turner, who has a knack for cushioning morose lyrics by counterbalancing them with an overpowering rock beat, sings, "I was acting like I knew/'Cause I have nothing to lose."
AM concludes with "I Wanna Be Yours," by far the slowest tempoed song on the album--as well as one of the strongest--sounds like something from the Kill Bill soundtrack. Discussing the topic of wanting to possess someone as fully as possible, Turner expresses, "I wanna be your vacuum cleaner/Breathe in your dust." A flurry of other metaphors abound as the song continues, proving that rock can still be literary.