The Arctic Monkeys are no longer about unkempt hair, tales of teenage romance, and hormone-fueled catchy dance tunes—they want you to know that. With new leather jackets, gel-slicked hair, and a rock star attitude, the humble Sheffield rock band, which shocked the U.K. with the 2006 release of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, has once again taken the music world by surprise but in a much different way.
Many fans might miss the raw energy of the old Arctic Monkeys, but even die-hard fans have to appreciate the new, sex-appeal-driven album AM. After seven years, their sound has distilled and darkened to be much more mature, mellow, full-bodied, and bold bass-driven—even Alex Turner’s voice seems to have dropped a couple of octaves. Even the minimalist album title is indicative of their change of attitude. They’ve grown up.
AM is very much heavier than any of Arctic Monkeys’ previous work in every aspect: heavy and slow drum beats and guitar riffs saturate the album as Alex Turner (with backup vocals from Nick O’Malley and Matt Helders) croons about serious love. The album kicks off with “Do I Wanna Know?”, a song with a seductive guitar hook that leads into one of the boldest, darkest places the band has ever been.
Although songs like “R U Mine?” might convince you otherwise, the album isn’t all heavy bad-assery. It’s also very reminiscent of decades past—some songs sound like they could be classic rock songs and ballads straight out of the jukebox (“Mad Sounds”). “No. 1 Party Anthem” introduces swelling piano chords in a soulful territory previously untraversed. “I Want It All” introduces the first occurrence of shoo-wops, which are brought to their peak in “Fireside,” which also boasts the use of synths. “Snap Out of It” introduces jazzy pianos and drums.
Those who are expecting just-another-indie-rock-album from Arctic Monkeys will be surprised. Hopefully, all fans will appreciate the bold new sound, although long-time fans might miss the wild electric energy of teenage naivety which is replaced by a much more adult psyche in the new album. As the fifth album created by the veteran band, AM strikes a resonating balance between experimentation and integrity that remains loyally attractive to rock fans across the board.