Sorry that I’ve been away. I’ve been busy with other stuff. So, yeah. Awful excuse, but that’s the one I got. PSA concerning this site: now that NBA season is coming up, I will be posting A LOT more.
But until then, on to music, more specifically, the Arctic Monkeys. The band out of Sheffield, England just released their 5th studio album, AM. After a few albums that were difficult to listen to completely (namely, 2009’s Humbug and 2011’s Suck It And See) because of the departure in style from their fabulous 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, AM has improved on the style of its immediate predecessors while returning to the bands’ roots and incorporating a new blend of influence from metal to hip hop.
Whatever People Say I Am was a transcendent record. It inspired people, much like the Velvet Underground’s classic, Velvet Underground and Nico, “to start a band” as music great Brian Eno once said. The album became the fastest-selling debut album in UK history, moving 360,000 copies in one week. In case you were unsure, that total beats other British acts the THE BEATLES, THE ROLLING STONES, LED ZEPPELIN and THE CLASH. And this happened during an age when the CD has lost a lot of its luster as compared to the glory days of the second half of the 20th century. This raw, enthusiastic album seemed so genuine. Hit singles like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down” kept college kids dancing for months. It seemed inevitable that the Arctic Monkeys would conquer America.
But they didn’t. It is not like they released any terrible albums. They just didn’t catch on. The band moved on from its early, garage-fueled, raw guitar-sounding days to a fusion of Joy Division and later stage British pop. However, on albums like Humbug, Suck It and See, and 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare, the Arctic Monkeys lost most of the pop element from their music while adding to its complexity. Not a very appealing type of music.
However, on AM, Alex Turner and co. morph all of their prior influences into a catchy, rocking blend. From the pop punk of the two opening songs, “Do I Wanna Know?” and “R U Mine?” to their classic ballads like “No. 1 Party Anthem” and “Fireside”, the band simplifies the formula, playing just simple guitar riffs and simple melodies. Turner was particularly mature in moving away from some of their more complex ideas that appeared on albums like Favourite Worst Nightmare. He composed a really tight, catchy album here, drawing from metal influences like Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age while throwing in some Green Day pop punk riffs. He also sounds excellent as always, on both vocals and lead guitar, and bassist Nick O’Malley cooks up some delicious bass lines.
Overall, Arctic Monkeys have released one of the best albums of the year, and one of the best punk albums in a long while. And while they may never conquer America, at least people can get excited about the band again.