Contrary to what Barney Stinson says, new is not always better. Amid the bevy of indie bands now flooding the Internet and clamoring for attention—many of them notably sub-par—few of them have been able to come close in stature to one of the first bands who have MySpace to thank for their fame. Arctic Monkeys have inadvertently become the success story that every indie-rock band wishes was theirs. And contrary to today’s tactic of simply trying to leverage the Internet for buzz and attention without providing any substance to back the style, Arctic Monkeys owe their worldwide success not just to MySpace and YouTube views, but to providing consistently high-quality music that just keeps getting better. Their fifth release, AM, merely continues this upward trend.
While this is a band loosely categorized with indie-rock and the post-punk revival, one of the secrets of their success is their ability to craft each album with its own unique sound, each different from the others, while still maintaining a cohesive thread that identifies each as an Arctic Monkeys album. On this journey, they have ventured garage rock, then into psych rock and vintage rock. So what’s the musical influence for AM?
Now, let’s be clear: you won’t hear any rapping on this record. In fact, the hip-hop element is so subtle that most of the time all you’re gonna notice is great music from the Arctic Monkeys. The hip-hop comes into play largely through the danceable rhythms and the creative wordplay by lead vocalist Alex Turner. But the fusion works remarkably well, and the end product sounds like a blend of garage/vintage sounds with just a bit of a bounce—and again, different than anything you’ve yet heard from Arctic Monkeys.
Thematically, AM carries a not-so-subtle bit of double-entendre. The album title is obviously an abbreviation of Arctic Monkeys, suggesting an eponymous album, while the songs themselves are lyrical musings apropos to the wee hours of the morning…
Aw, let’s cut to the chase: these songs are about sex, or at least about wanting to have it. Most of these are songs where guys are talking about girls, or talking to girls, or looking for a particular girl, at a time of night when it’s almost too late to do anything about it. A good example of the latter (looking for a girl) is “No. 1 Party Anthem,” where Turner rambles about a guy searching the club for a girl he saw earlier (and BTW, you know it’s a Brit band because he makes “walls” rhyme with “poles”): “Drunken monologues / Confused because it’s not like I’m falling in love / I just want you to do me no good / And you look like you could.” Likewise, “Arabella” waxes romantically poetic before descending into the lustful: “My days end best when the sunset gets itself behind / That little lady sitting on the passenger side / It’s much less picturesque without her catching the light / The horizon tries but it’s just not as kind on the eyes”—and then, later, “Rubs her lips round a Mexican Coke / Makes you wish that you were the bottle.” Ahem.
All in all, there is not really anything on the album that could be categorized as a mis-step. There’s a reason why Arctic Monkeys sell out shows around the world, and it’s not because of some massive spin machine, or even because these guys know how to use the Interwebs. Ultimately, it’s because they make damn good music, giving fans a reason to look forward to the next album. Happily, AM does not disappoint. It continues a trend that every rock band hopes to achieve, where each album is a leap forward from the last.
So in a way, maybe Barney Stinson was right after all. New is not always better, but in the case of Arctic Monkeys, the new album does always seem to be the best one.