By Ellise Shafer
Over the past decade, Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys-consisting of vocalist and guitarist Alex Turner, guitarist Jamie Cook,bassist Nick O’Malley, and drummer Matt Helders-have shifted their style countless times. They first debuted in 2006 with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, a fast-paced, shouty album with complicated drum beats and strategically placed guitar riffs. Next for the indie starlets was Favourite Worst Nightmare, where they kept their signature upbeat sound and witty lyrics, but showed a softer side by including heart-wrenching ballads such as “505” and “Only Ones who Know”. The Humbug era came not long thereafter, where lead singer Alex Turner grew his hair to his shoulders, and their music adopted a darker, edgier sound. Fans were then surprised by the 2011 release of Suck It and See, in which the Monkeys took on a lighter, poppier feel, with songs about twenty-something beautiful girls- most likely inspired by Turner’s model-turned-fashion icon ex, Alexa Chung- and who could forget when Turner chopped his locks into a John Lennon-esque quiff?
September 6th of this year has led Arctic Monkeys fans into a new era of sound, this time entitled AM. Just when their fans thought they couldn’t get any better- well, they did. AM is the near perfect infusion of all past albums, with Turner’s witty lyrics still in place and the darker tones of Humbug shining through. Said tones may be the result of a certain Queens of the Stone Age crooner, namely Josh Homme, who has been contributing his vocals to Arctic Monkeys’ records since Humbug. However, unlike Humbug, AM maintains the same rugged sound with an acoustic, rawer, sexier twist. One of the largest differences is Turner’s use of falsetto- quite a large change from his usual ways of arrogant speak-singing . For this reason, those who love Arctic Monkeys only for their powerful rock hits might want to shy away from this album. Not all is lost, though- tracks such as “Arabella”, “R U Mine?”, and “Snap Out of It” still hold a hint of that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not flavor.
As for lyrics, Turner once again proves that he has mastered the art of putting words together in such a way that they don’t make sense, yet do. The album is put together like a cohesive coming of age story: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl. In order to convey this, Turner uses powerful metaphors that anyone who’s been in-and out- of love will understand, though maybe not at first. For example, the beginning of “R U Mine?”: I’m a puppet on a string/ Tracy Island, time-traveling diamond/ Could of shaped heartaches/ Come to find ya, fall in some velvet morning/ Years too late/ She’s a silver lining, lone ranger riding/ Through an open space and “One for the Road”: From the bottom of your heart/ A relegation zone/ I saw this coming from the start/ The shake rattle and roll/The cracks in blackout blinds/ Cast patterns on the ceiling/But you’re feeling fine. However, this method of conveying deep meanings without actually saying them is one not new to Turner, as lyrics such as these have appeared since Arctic Monkeys’ debut. In fact, one might compare the lyrics seen in AM to those of Turner’s solo endeavor, Submarine, and it’s easy to see why- the somber poeticness is just so.
Behind the lyrics is a smorgasbord of groovy drum beats, electric guitar riffs, and bone-shattering bass lines provided by the rest of the band. Helders’ spot-on drumming is enough to make listeners sway to the beat, and he clearly demonstrates this during “Knee Socks”- a track on which he provides back up falsetto as well. Guitarist Cook joins in with Turner to create the easily recognizable beginning to AM’s first single, “Do I Wanna Know?”, and once again shines with a solo all to his own during “Arabella”. Let’s not forget O’Malley, whose bass line during “One for the Road” draws attention to its creativity and rhythm. Leading all of this is Turner’s clear singing, topped off with strong vibrato that casts similarities to Lennon. Backing him up on the many instances of falsetto is drummer Helders, Homme, and bassist O’Malley. Turner’s voice is one that could both sing listeners to sleep, and shake them awake. Take the raunchy “Arabella” in which Turner belts: My days end best when the sunset gets itself behind/That little lady sitting on the passenger side/It’s much less picturesque without her catching the light/The horizon tries but it’s just not as kind on the eyes/As Arabella/Just might have tapped into your mind and soul/You can’t be sure, compared to the bittersweet ballad “I Wanna Be Yours”, in which Turner takes on a more tender tone:Secrets I have held in my heart/Are harder to hide than I thought/Maybe I just wanna be yours.
In conclusion, AM has effortlessly opened up what looks like a new era of glory for Arctic Monkeys. Although the overall sound differs from albums of the past, it just goes to show how talented these four young men are. It’s safe to say that this will not be the last of the Monkeys and their signature rugged sound. So, sit back, relax, and dive in to the falsetto-coated, foot-stomping beats of the fifth installment in the Arctic Monkeys anthology.
Image courtesy of Domino Recording Company