By David Lownds
September 6, 2013
‘R U Mine?’ – the first song on the album to be released as a single – rocks more than a Zeppelin song about geology, with Matt Helders’ powerhouse drumming and Queens of the Stone Age-like muscular riffs on display. But in certain places, like ‘One For The Road’ for example, AM takes stylistic pages from Dr Dre; a feat not achieved, as far as we are aware, by any other rock band, at least to such a degree of imitation. The influence of hip-hop and contemporary R&B is seen not only in the style of music heard from the guitar, drums and bass, but also in Turner’s cadence or ‘flow’, as well as in the high-pitched backing vocals which sound good at first but do begin to grate after a while. In addition to tracks flavoured thus there are also more relaxed songs like ‘Mad Sounds’.
The trouble is that the most chilled songs sound on first listen just as similar to each other as the hip-hop-influenced ones. Furthermore, although there are rockier moments like the Sabbathesque chorus of ‘Arabella’, one is left longing for the urgency of ‘View From the Afternoon’ or the wit of ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’. Another way in which the album could be better is if it experimented with more styles, such as older pop music or even other hip-hop styles. One might also be critical of the lack of a grand finale in ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, and the similarity of its riff to another in the aforementioned ‘R U Mine?’. However, if both tracks are seen as two distinct parts of a suite, ‘R U Mine?’ becomes its extended climax and the problem of similarity between the riffs is shown to be unifying rather than lazy.
In short, Arctic Monkeys’ new album AM is a world away from their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Is such a contrast a good idea for Arctic Monkeys? An answer to this question will inevitably appear in the minds of all who listen to their new album, along with, perhaps, the question of whether they truly are a rock band any more, as opposed to a contemporary R&B band who dabble in rock on some songs.
AM is out on September 9 and is available to buy here.