On Arctic Monkeys’ last four albums, they’ve wandered through personas and sounds in a way that recalls the identity crisis they battled with in the title of their debut “Whatever People Say I am, That’s what I’m not.”
With “AM” the band has filled in some of those gaps of character. And even the title of this fifth album has a sense of self-awareness.
Those dark chord progressions that the band has been experimenting with since “Favourite Worst Nightmare” have found a direction. This is thanks in a large part to Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, who helped in the recording of the album. Like in his own project, he’s able to put an emotional connection into these sinister soundscapes. His influence can be heard most notably in the album’s phenomenal backing vocals and melodic solos.
Then there’s the riffs, which Arctic Monkeys has always had a fascination with — especially on “Humbug.” Here when they roar into “AM” they’re sexy, tough and cool. But most importantly there’s structure between these riffs connecting the dots. On album opener “Do I Wanna Know?,” Alex Turner’s croon along with call-and-response backing vocals build into an answer to the question posed in the title.
With “AM,” the pop that became a lull in “Suck it and See,” has found its personality. “Snap Out of It,” once again with those backing vocals, has a relaxed clarity to it — like Turner is imparting some sort of wisdom to his younger self. It only took about seven years for the hype around Arctic Monkeys to wane, and now that it has, the band seems to have calmed down and started having fun.