New Music Tuesday: Arctic Monkeys – AM

arctic-monkeys-am-album-artwork

By Andrew Burk

I’m terrible at being an adult. I consider myself an intelligent, (arguably) capable human being, but when it comes to adulthood, I’ve never found the knack. Taxes? Rent? Responsibility? What are these things? When did they start impacting my life? Is this what we dreamed about as children? Is this what we aspired to? Certainly not, but these are the things that the world expects of us, and whether we like it or not, everyone has to grow up sometime.

My very best friend (in this life or any other) asked me to write this guest blog over a week ago, and now I sit here writing, hours before I promised to deliver it, days of X-Box, booze, and karaoke echoing behind me. I’ve clung to adolescence with an iron grip, but now it’s time to let go, at least for a moment, and embrace the responsibility I’ve been handed. It’s time to grow up.

If a feckless degenerate such as me is capable of such growth, what sort of growth can a band of degenerates accomplish? Can a bunch of rowdy young men – banded together out of a mutual desire to get drunk, get loud, and play some music – transform themselves into mature artists? What about the music? Does music mature in the same way that people do?

The answer to all of these questions is yes, at least if Arctic Monkeys have anything to say about it. For those precious few of you who are unfamiliar with them, Arctic Monkeys are a four man Brit-rock band whose debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was released in 2006 amidst a whirlwind of both critical and commercial success. Within weeks, it had usurped the position of highest selling album in British history, immediately establishing the band as superstars in their home country. Although they failed to sell as many copies in the U.S., the band made a name for themselves here nevertheless.

Musically and lyrically, the album was an ode to the decadence, belligerence, lustfulness, and false sense of ennui that one only truly possesses in his/her early 20s. Its first single , “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor,” exemplifies the desperate, manic, and often one-sided nature of sexual diplomacy amongst the twentysomething set, guitars flaring in machine gun bursts and fast, wild crescendos, mirroring the frantic desire of the vocals. On the next track, “Fake Tales Of San Francisco,” the narrator scoffs at the “weekend rockstars” playing at the clubs, dismissing them immediately as phonies pretending to be interesting despite a lack of talent, his disdain dripping from every word.

Throughout the album, on songs like “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured,” “From the Ritz to the Rubble,” and even the modestly paced “Riot Van,” the band paints a picture of an excessive club lifestyle, and the potential consequences thereof, as all the while sharp punk guitar riffs and even sharper drum beats sound recklessly at a pace that will undoubtedly cause your heart to beat a little faster. Though undoubtedly well-crafted, one is left with a clear sense of the irresponsibility of its protagonists.

Seven years and four albums later, Arctic Monkeys have brought us AM, released last September, and this new album shows the kind of growth, both personal and artistic, that I now seek to find in my own life. Having proven themselves as royalty in the British rock scene, one would expect the band to further embrace the decadent, hard partying club life that they seemed so fond of at the dawn of their success, but this is not the case. Deceptively silly song titles like “No. 1 Party Anthem” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” hide songs that are full of regret and disappointment at the very same lifestyle that they had lauded earlier in their career, and the slow, soulful “Mad Sounds” wistfully recalls the wild nights and poor choices of the past in words that would be equally suited to the lips of an older performer. “One For The Road” and “Fireside” express a longing to correct the damage caused by the ill behavior of the narrator’s younger self.

Gone is the lustful womanizer of “Dancefloor,” replaced here by a desire for a real connection that permeates songs like “Arabella,” “I Wanna Be Yours,” and “Do I Wanna Know?,” the album’s first single. Gone, too, are the quick, angry beats and guitar lines that infused their first album with the energy of rebellious youth, replaced by a slower, heavier, bass-lined sound that echoes the new album’s change in temperament. Overall, AM shows a level of maturity that Arctic Monkeys were incapable of in the early history of the band.

As a young man trying his best to grow into a proper adult, I can admit that I identify strongly with the themes of AM, and as a lover of good music, I appreciate and enjoy the band’s shift to a more adult sound. It should come as no surprise, then, that I recommend this album to anyone who hasn’t already bought it, especially if you’re a fan of the sort of modern British rock that Arctic Monkeys have come to dominate. They have truly grown as musicians and individuals, and I, for one, expect great endeavors in their future. As for my own future, time will tell.

Arctic Monkeys – AM
Domino, 2013
Rating: A
Listen Now: “I Wanna Be Yours”, “No. 1 Party Anthem”, “Arabella”, “Mad Sounds”

Andrew Patrick Burk is a mysterious vagabond who doesn’t do any blogging of his own and doesn’t have a website, but enjoys music and can often be found performing in District Karaoke, DC’s only competitive karaoke league. Anyone interested in finding out more can visit their website at www.districtkaraoke.com or by visiting their Facebook page. And to those readers living in NYC, please check out their sister league Gotham City Karaoke at www.gckaraokeleague.com.

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