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Arctic Monkeys start strong, flame out

Dan Brombach | Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oftentimes, when people hear that a band is classified as “indie rock,” they either flee in terror or lock themselves in a bomb shelter with a copy of Ronald Reagan’s autobiography.
Have no fear. “AM,” the fifth studio album released by the Arctic Monkeys, may fall under the heading of indie rock, but it packs a punch that makes it well worth a listen for fans of all musical tastes. Believe me when I say that ‘AM’ is not just for beret enthusiasts to listen to on their Zunes while long boarding to the nearest vegetable co-op.
 For those unfamiliar, the Arctic Monkeys are a highly talented five-man band hailing from Sheffield, United Kingdom. Their unique sound and fast paced tempo, layered with the thick English accent of lead singer Alex Turner, have vaulted them to fame around the world. In fact, the Arctic Monkeys are the first band signed to an independent label to record five consecutive No. 1 albums.
‘AM’ definitely sounds like a chart-topping album during its first few tracks. “Do I Wanna Know?” and “R U Mine?” are rewarding listens that will have your head nodding and your feet stomping in no time.
Just make sure your friends aren’t around to laugh and pelt you with garbage when it happens.
“One for the Road,” the album’s third track, is yet another solid offering. Its pulsing drums and synthesized guitar riffs are strongly reminiscent of The Black Keys, another popular “indie” band that hails not from England but from the city of lights, city of angels and capital of the free world: Akron, Ohio.
“AM” explodes out of the gate, even if the word “explode” may be too “edgy” and “Republican” for many people who listen to indie rock. However, the album grows disconcertingly thin in musical content after its fifth track has come and gone. If ‘AM’ starts as the Boston Red Sox, it ends as the Houston Astros. If it starts as the Miami Heat, it ends as WNBA’s 10-win powerhouse, the Connecticut Sun.
So, I guess my main criticism of “AM” is that it slows down and grows stale at times. A rolling stone gathers no moss, but “AM’s” second half jams up the album just long enough for a slight layer of mediocrity to accumulate.
What I used to love about the Arctic Monkeys, what made me buy their earlier albums and become a fan of theirs in the first place, was the frenetic style and energy they packed into seemingly every song. Their music used to be loud and crazy, used to make you want to do something rebellious or stupid, which at Notre Dame can be defined as holding your girlfriend’s hand in broad daylight, skipping Mass to do homework or entering the first floor men’s bathroom in DeBartolo Hall without a gas mask.
It’s the absence of that fun, fast-paced style that drops “AM” from a great to a good album in my eyes.
Don’t get me wrong, “AM” is definitely worth a listen and a download. However, for those new to the Arctic Monkeys, I would suggest starting with one of their earlier albums, specifically “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” before giving “AM” a try.
Although not the Arctic Monkey’s best effort to date, “AM” shows us once again that everything Britain lacks in dental hygiene and the ability to win revolutionary wars, it makes up in producing unique, groundbreaking rock music that people of all tastes can enjoy.
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