Arctic Monkeys are alive and kicking
Thom Behrens | Tuesday, March 4, 2014
“AM,” released on Sept. 6, 2013, sits on NME’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and its commercial success made the Arctic Monkeys the first independent-label band to release their first five albums at the number-one spot on UK charts. It was chosen as one of the Top Ten Albums of 2013 by publications such as Rolling Stone, Q magazine and Uncut. According to The Official Charts Company, “AM” was the second fastest selling album of 2013. It hasn’t left the Billboard Top 200 since its release 24 weeks ago ¾ basically I’m saying this album is the business.
“AM” is a jaded, sardonic return to the deviant enjoyment of British nightlife the band both critiques and joins in their 2006 debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” That being said, the social scenarios described in these two albums are as far as the similarities go. Enchanted by the sour romance of 2007’s “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” callused by the intense emotion of 2009’s “Humbug” and scarred by the bittersweet betrayal of 2011’s “Suck It And See,” “AM” signals a new era for the band, filled with leather jackets, hand-rolled cigarettes and French women left in dust trails of powerful motorcycles driven by aviator-clad heartbreakers. The band’s fifth album proclaims a message of invincibility within the romantic battlefield; all of their emotional weakness has been squeezed out in their past albums.
“Suck It and See” sold a message of emotional vulnerability: “Be cruel to me / ‘cause I’m a fool for you” (title track); “When I’m not being honest I pretend you were just some lover” (“Love is a Laserquest”); “[She’s] one of those games you’re gonna lose / but you wanna play it just in case” (Black Treacle). Turner traded in these risky, pour-your-heart-out ballads for the cynical and sexualized verses on “AM,” accompanied by a sour, rhythmically heavy, growling guitar riffs reminiscent of The Black Keys.
In “AM,” lines like “Crawlin’ back to you ¾ ever thought of callin’ when you’ve had a few?” (“Do I Wanna Know?”); “Ain’t it just like you to kiss me and then hit the road, leave me listening to the stones” (“I Want It All”); “Now it’s three in the morning, and I’m trying to change your mind … You replied ‘Why’d you only call me when you’re high’” (“Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High”) show that desire has prioritized itself above love, and that the boys have returned to the shallow and sometimes shameful, yet painfully relevant nightlife culture.
It is this transition that catapulted “AM” (and the band) to the top of the charts this year. The band is selling an image and a resolution. After three albums of heartbreak and lovesickness, the band has come out alive and kickin’ on the other side, ready to conquer the night and the early-a.m. hours of the morning with their devil-may-care, unfeeling attitude. For a piece of art like this, I think the band earned every award Britain has to throw at it.