Record Label: Domino
The 'Monkeys 5th record sees Alex Turner returning to his illustrious lyrical brilliance, says Jack Greenwood
"I'm yours Glastonbury, I'm yours... But the question is R U MINE?" Alex Turner, Glastonbury Festival 2013
Monday marked the fifth day of my life in which I woke to the excitement of an Arctic Monkeys album release. Both the band and the publics' perception of them has changed dramatically since that primitive 2006 work. Unlike the vast playground of potential greeting their initial adolescent dance-floor tunes, they now face an expectant fan-base of millions around the globe. And of course, with each subsequent release, questions have prodded and probed at the Monkeys, suggesting that they will never again reach the vertiginous heights of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Fittingly, AM emerges with a rhetoric of Alex Turner’s own. Do I Wanna Know? emboldens exactly the brooding, mischievous and carnal style the band have favoured on recent records. The poetic verses that have surfaced throughout Turner’s eleven year mastery of the Monkeys’ vocals slip into earshot in the opening line as he croons ‘Have you got colour in your cheeks?’ over a lethargic but progressive bass line. His ability to produce lyrics of the most intriguing manner never fails throughout the dozen songs tabled in this release. Even more impressive is his fascinating reworking of John Cooper Clarke’s early 1980s poem I Wanna Be Yours, which seems to be so suited to the Sheffield man’s own musings that younger listeners can be forgiven for mistaking it to be fresh out of the North Midlands. As the last song, it re-emphasises the meticulous structure of each AM song, and the lyrical brilliance of their front man.
For those that, somewhat understandably, crave a return to the pulse racing, expeditious shout-alongs of days gone by, solace is found in the festival-scale belter, R U Mine? A tune that was first released more than 18 months ago, it represents the only real glimpse we get of the clamorous but adept drumming of Matt Helders. R U Mine? Is already firmly a crowd favourite in the live set, as this summer’s emphatic Glastonbury headlining act proved. At times, AM must frustrate those who were looking for something a bit more aggressive and upbeat, but followers just need to accept that the Arctic Monkeys will never better their all conquering debut. Instead of yearning for the old sounds, embrace the streamlined swagger of a band transformed by their association with Josh Homme and his American influence.
The album offers a comprehensive drop in tempo after the classic rock of the superb Arabella and the meandering I Want It All, which is equally as unconvincing as the flaccid No.1 Party Anthem. Fortunately, the joyful, piano inspired Snap Out of It, offers exactly that remedy to a listing middle order. It brightens up the record’s climax with an infectiously catchy hum-under-your breath harmony.
Britain’s favourite 21st century northern four-piece may just have contrived the most tightly polished and immaculately produced full-length release of their careers. That’s not always a good thing, but striving to recreate a distinctly sixties vibe, not least with the heavily greased hairdos and swanky leather jackets appears to be working for the sexualised musings of Alex Turner right now.
Key Tracks: R U Mine?, Arabella, Snap Out Of It
For Fans of: Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon