(Domino Recording Co Ltd)
As I am roughly the same age as the members of Arctic Monkeys, I can stretch to call them peers of a sort. I’ve been a fan since their 2006 debut, and over the past seven years, we’ve matured together. We’ve gone from our cheeky, rapid fire early twenties to more settled adulthood. Accordingly, AM is an accomplishment, brazenly showing off its retro influences while remaining uniquely modern.
Soulful backing vocals and a patient, plaintive guitar give the music a distinctly ’70s air. “Arabella,” for instance, even goes so far as to mention Barbarella, Helter Skelter and other images to evoke this particular era. As though that weren’t enough to create nostalgia, the riffs on “R U Mine?” could have been ripped straight from the mitts of Black Sabbath.
While there’s no fault in the music, I will lodge complaint with one song. Heartbreak and longing are universal muses, but “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” made me roll my eyes. Alex Turner is a clever enough writer that I doubt it’s incidental the song contains variants of the words “mirror,” “bump,” and “gear.” We get it, you’re a grown-up rock star now. I’m not advocating censorship here; while so many ’70s greats were also into a bit of chemical enhancement, they at least embraced the art of metaphor about it. Step it up, Turner.
That one exception aside, AM is a fairly relatable portrait of life as you get older, with broken hearts and burnt bridges and bleary nights. Arctic Monkeys continue to refine themselves, and we can all benefit from a young band staying true to rock & roll.