And now back to our regularly scheduled presentation on Radio Friendly.
I’d like to preface this article by saying some of this content won’t be new to those who read my extravagant rants. A couple years ago I wrote an article titled ‘Where the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys’ showcasing some clever word play as I ripped off their 2006 EP ‘Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys’. In that article I explained how Arctic Monkeys used to be my favourite band of all time, and how, when I was in Year 7, I stumbled across their first album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: their first album, their best album, and my favourite album of all time. My life had changed. I threw out my Green Day pins and pop-punk attitude and stocked up on denim, Connies and grew my hair into a Turner-esque mop. But my relationship with our cross-continental cousins has slowly faded away to a bitter and resentful rapport. As if now I am the hostile, disposable divorcee who’s been cheated on with a strong, brooding American rocker. And I still have flash backs to the fond memories we once shared. It’s a love hate relationship with Arctic Monkeys, mostly hate now, and the hatred started to show its ugly head on their third album Humbug, when the Brit-rockers began working with Queen’s of the Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme; the strong, brooding American rocker. Humbug was just a bit of flirtation between the two, Homme and Turner would share ideas, kindly complement each other. Suck It and See (fourth album — Homme influenced) moved onto the secret sexting phase, and by the time AM came around, Monkeys and Homme were balls deep while I sat on the sideline trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. When AM was first teased with lead single Do I Wanna Know, I thought maybe Arctic Monkeys had woken up and seen the light, that maybe they would return to their cheeky indie-punk roots. That maybe they would end this love affair with America’s desert rocker and return to my open embrace. I hoped.
AM came out back in 2013 after two teaser tracks were released. Like I mentioned, Do I Wanna Know had me semi chubbed for a possible propa Arctic Monkeys return, but it was R U Mine that really got me excited. The guitars still had the desert fuzz tone that Homme had so perfectly brainwashed into the band, but the composition of the track was what stood out to me. The guitar riffs were catchy, a little sexy, and had a cheeky back and forth with the drum rhythm. Alex Turner’s lyrics were smart and playful like they were back on Whatever People Say and even Favourite Worst Nightmare. The rhythm wasn’t as fast as tracks from the early days, but Turner’s lyrics were rolling off his tongue, often without a breath, much like they did back in ’06. That alone had me hyped for AM.
I was trapped in a haze when the album was released. I bought the cd and played it in my car for a few weeks. I would sing along to most of the songs, they weren’t that hard to memorise. And that was when the spell broke. Do you know how long it took me to understand, memorise and continue to remember the lyrics off Whatever People Say? Years. Fucking years it took me. Turner spat his lyrics with rapid fire as if he was a loaded semi-automatic. It was punk rock with a strong indie flare. AM is a different beast altogether.
Third track One For The Road begins with minimal instrumentation, a fuzzy bass, a glistening guitar riff, and a slow drum rhythm. There’s nothing interesting in this track to keep me engaged. There’s no spark that drives the song forward. I do like the guitar solo at the end of the song, though it feels like it’s ripped straight from a Queen’s of the Stone Age album. It’s as if Homme himself is in the studio mocking me. The solo screams ‘we’re done Nick, move on, grab your things and leave.’
Arabella, the fourth track, was one of the songs that caught my ear when AM originally came out. It begins similar to One For The Road, fuzzy bass and minimal instrumentation. Turner’s lyrics are engaging this time around; they are seductive, and his accent gives the track some sexiness. The drums stop, and a thick guitar chord slides up the neck giving off a strong Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath vibe. Though the song is catchy, it’s not what I want from a band from Sheffield who wrote the book on British indie-rock. Arabella sounds like they are trying their best to be a desert rock band. It sounds like an Eagles of Death Metal song — another Homme project by the way.
Half way through the album, the band slow the tempo down even further with №1 Party Anthem. I don’t mind when the band want to give us a bit of a break, but AM hasn’t been that energetic thus far to feel that we deserve this. If we compare it to Whatever People Say, Arctic Monkeys slowed it down with Riot Van half way through the album, but that was after we had just taken a pleasurable beating from the fast hi-hat and kick drum combo and the duelling guitar riffs. №1 Party Anthem is the most boring track on AM and one I originally skipped back in the day. The track has a dreamy atmosphere to it that serves as an excuse for Turner to listen to his own voice. And for young girls to flock to his beckon. It’s like Lana Del Rey has highjacked an Arctic Monkeys song and slid it into the track listing.
Another song I don’t mind in the context of AM is Fireside. The rolling rhythm gives the song drive and adds to Turner’s croon. The highlight is the ‘shoo bop shoo bop’ refrains from drummer Matt Helders that give the track a 1950s rock and roll feel. It’s a clever track and I like it, but in the back of my mind I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not what I want from this band.
Same can be said for the next track, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High. The lyrics are classic Turner, he tells a story about being out on the town trying to be pick up a bird after a few too many. It’s relatable, funny and catchy; it’s what made early fans fall in love with him and the band. But the song is boring and slow. I imagine if the band picked the tempo up and used some of their old punky drum rhythms, you’d have a cracker tune here. You’d have an old Monkeys song.
Closing song, I Wanna Be Yours, another slow, dreamy track, has a catchy melody in its chorus. But aside from that, it’s something I’d fall asleep to. The track is lazy, as if the band threw a couple melodies together and bam, they’ve got a closer track. It annoys me because I know what the band can do, and AM shows that the band still has great song-writing ability, but they’ve become lazy in their performance. If you speed up many of the tracks off this album, you’d get a song that would fit on Whatever People Say. It seems that over time, and with the help of other producers, the band have slacked off. Arctic Monkeys are the guys in a group assignment who cruise through, do their part the night before it’s due, and still get full credit and a great mark for the assignment.
I know many people love AM and that’s because they’ve come to the party late. These are the people who will quote I Bet That You Look Good on the Dance Floor, or When the Sun Goes Down to show you that they’ve listened to other Arctic Monkeys albums before. I also know a few old school fans who, like myself, still regard early Monkeys as the better incarnation. I feel sorry for those fans. I fondly remember an English bloke yelling out at their 2012 Brisbane gig, “play your old stoof, ya bunch of fookin coonts.” Amen brother, amen.
AM by Arctic Monkeys was not worth the hype.
Will I listen to the next Arctic Monkeys album? I want to say no. I want to. But like the hostile, disposable divorcee, I still love those early days.
After the Hype is a weekly series where I listen to an album after the hype dies down and give my general thoughts, sometimes a little whinge. It’s ok to disagree.