Full review of the band's fifth album - does it live up to their own standards?
Andrew Trendell

12:35 3rd September 2013

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The wait for AM seems like it has taken an age. Dropping 'R U Mine' last year was the point when Arctic Monkeys got their heavy rock balls out and showed a spirit and attitude that we've never seen from them before. 

The track was mostly adored, which is saying something when you consider that everything that they've released since Favourite Worst Nightmare has divided opinion among fans. Many were left pining for the short-sharp indie dancefloor anthems of their early work, while others hailed the expansion and evolution of Humbug and Suck It & See. 

With a drip-release of new tracks and a pretty explosive headline set at Glastonbury 2013, the hunger for new Arctic Monkeys material has never been stronger. But has it been worth the wait? Where does AM take the Monkeys from here? Let's have a listen and find out... 

'Do I Wanna Know?'
Oof, here we go. With a curled-lip snarl and a flick of his quiff, Alex Turner kicks off AM with the flick-blade bravado that runs throughout the record. Continuing the hard-edged rockier sound of Suck It And See left off, 'Do I Wanna Know' simmers with a slow-burning groove reminiscent of the darker moments on Humbug. It's a pretty mean album opener, and will sound pretty huge in those arenas this winter.

'R U Mine?'

Ahead of their blistering performance at the London 2012 games last summer, the Sons of South Yorkshire blew fans with away with this fittingly Olympian track. Racing into a heavier psychedelic rock direction, R U Mine has quickly become a fan favourite. Why? Well, it's a right little beast, laden with a righteous riff and sexy QOTSA-esque groove. This is exactly what we imagine blazing through the desert on a Harley with Josh Homme sounds like. Phwoar. 

'One For The Road'
Drummer Matt Helder's high-pitched 'woos' introduce the track before a chunky riff and Turner croons with that Americana-tinged rockabilly twang that caught him so much controversy at Glasto: "From the bottom of your heart, the relegation zone - the song is coming from the start, shake rattle and roll." 
From there on, it's a pretty standard chug-along bluesy affair, heavily steeped in the aesthetic of their past few records but showing a huge leap in evolution from the spiky lads who brought us 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco'. 

A typically John Cooper Clarke-esque wonder of wit and wordplay sees in track four with Turner spitting: "Arabella's got some interstellar gator skin boots, and a helter skelter and a little finger and I ride it endlessly. From there, 'Arabella' takes on a meaty and lean classic rock rush with choppy guitar work and a chunky rhythm section that shows clear influence from their former touring buddies The Black Keys. A future Monkeys' classic? Maybe, whatever, but it sounds bloody brilliant live. 

'I Want It All'
Kicking with the playful classic rock menace of The Beatles' The White Album, 'I Want It All' is the sound of Turner raiding his parents' record collection with an ode to the timeless classics of The Kinks et all - with a 'shoo-wop' or two thrown in for good measure. Keep that one - mark it 'fab'.

'No.1 Party Anthem'
Here we see the slow, swooning and contemplative Turner at his finest, in what feels like the sequel to 'Cornerstone', as he poetically pines over a rock n' roll mistress as the end of another heady night: "You're on prowl wondering if she left already or not, her leather jacket collar popped like an antenna and never knowing when to stop." This will be one to wave those lighters to for years to come. 

'Mad Sounds'
Flowing with the same laissez-faire easy swagger of the previous song, this marks the point where you wonder if AM may indeed be lacking in 'Mad Sounds'. It's bloody lovely and the gentle swaying of  'ooh la la la' will bring a warming unity at upcoming shows, but you feel yourself wanting something a little more dangerous by now. 

A rich tapestry of 1960s thunder and a move towards more accomplished and classic songwriting, 'Fireside' wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Last Shadows Puppet's album. So yeah, it's nice enough, but recent b-sides '2013' and 'Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You' were far more daring and would have given AM a much-needed rush around here. 

'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High'
A true highlight of AM, 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High' is not only a devious little earworm, but sees the Monkeys exploring a more adventurous loose psychedelic direction, met with some of Turner's finest kitchen sink melodrama lyrics of a night out turned sour. You'll be mumbling this as you stagger home for decades to come. 

'Snap Out Of It'
One of the most pedestrian rock n'roll by numbers moments on AM, Snap Out Of It is a pretty nondescript affair of easy rhythm, lacklustre melody and forgettable lyrics. "I get the feeling that I've left it too late, but snap out of it," sings Turner. Our thoughts exactly. 

'Knee Socks'
Oof! That's more like it, lads! A feisty firecracker of a riff sees in 'Knee Socks' before Turner wraps his tongue around the sound of the Monkeys at their darkest and most brooding: "You've got your lights on in the afternoon and the nights are drawn out long, and you're kissing to cut through the gloom with a cough-drop-coloured tongue."

'I Wanna Be Yours'
"I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust - I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I won't ever rust," pines Turner over a cinematic Ennion Morricone guitar soundscape - shrugging off all suggestions that he's forgotten his Yorkshire roots and gone too Yank on us. Ending AM with one of its more open and experimental moments, 'I Wanna Be Yours' shows the Sheffield giants really exploring the refreshing space in their sound before an abrupt end. 

While Humbug may have fallen a little flat with some fans, it did mark a clear shift and evolution for the band and contains some of their best songs as a result. Suck It & See truly upped the ante and saw the Monkeys race into a a new gear. AM, sadly, smacks a little of a band just coasting. That's not to say it's a bad album - far from it. It's a bloody great album that's lightyears ahead of all of their post-Libertine indie peers, it just doesn't feel brave enough for a band with so much bravado. A decent-ish Arctic Monkeys album is far better than most LPs you'll hear this year, but if D is Dangerous, then AM might be for 'Ace (but) Mild'. 

AM is released via Domino on 9 September, 2013

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