SEPTEMBER – AM by Arctic Monkeys

So brothers, here we are in September. The summer’s gone, the days are growing shorter, and we’re at a bit of a landmark for me, one that I’m happy to admit that proves that, however slowly, a leopard can change its spots. Since they first came onto the scene all those years ago, I wanted to like the Arctic Monkeys, in fact being from Sheffield (I spent 3 fantastic years there in the 90s at university) and young, brash, singing interesting, sly lyrics in an unashamed regional accent, I should’ve loved them. But I didn’t. And I’m willing to admit that some large part of that was the tidal wave of obsequious press coverage, as if the Beatles were reincarnated in Crookes. The NME were a lot of the problem, and I tend to push back everything they launch (ironic, as three of my good friends now were writing for them at the time). See also Amy Winehouse, Jake Bugg, in fact take your pick.

So, what’s changed? Me, and probably them a bit. Not, I’ll laugh, on my behalf. I’ve liked a lot of what they’ve done, and they’re one of these bands that, if you played a ‘greatest hits’, I’d know most of it. They’ve grown on me for all the reasons that I should have  liked them in the first place. But I think the turner for me (pardon the pun) was Glastonbury. And no, I didn’t even see them, but I’d heard they were amazing. When I got back I watched their set, and pretty much watched it all the way through, and it was a bit of a revelation. Here’s a band that are so far moved on from their early days, so confident, and owning one of the most revered arenas in music. They’re unbelievably tight, and Alex Turner’s really the finished article as a frontman, in a very English way.

I’d heard the new single – Do I Wanna Know – on 6Music, many times, and also You Only Call Me When You’re High, and really liked both, and snippets of other tracks and I haven’t heard anything I’ve not liked. So I’m willing to sit here, and confess to you, my brothers, that I like the Arctic Monkeys. So there. And I’m looking forward to digesting the album.

I hope you like this too.

7 comments

  1. misterstory

    So so so, only heard this a few times through but excited to get into it. I’m coming to this with a fair amount of good will. I like the Arctic Monkey’s always have done really despite all the hype explosion years ago. I like the fact that they paid for their own meals when being courted by record companies. I like that they chose the record company that would give them the greatest freedom (but the smallest pay cheque). I like that they have developed.

    However, I am struggling to listen to this without thinking ‘ouch, David won’t like that bit’ and interestingly, its mostly to do with lyrics which is by reputation a strength of Alex whats his face. Let’s see if I still think that after really getting into it.

    Cheers Guy.

  2. David Allison

    Sorry I’ve taken so long to reply to this month’s offering. In all honesty, I’ve tried to give AM a proper spin a good few times before working out what I think about it. And now I have. Though I’m not sure you’re going to like it. So let me just say in advance of this that I mean no harm in any of my words and I’ve actually really enjoyed grappling with my feelings about this album. So here goes…

    I hate this album. I mean, I really, really hate it. It’s the album I’ve liked least of any of our monthly choices. I’ve listened to it at least half a dozen times, I’ve read the glowing reviews, both here and the US, I’ve even sat through an execrable Guardian interview where Alex Turner would rather be anywhere else other than the interview. And where have I ended up? Well, clearly in a different place to a lot of people.

    First of all, the positives. They’re a very professional outfit. They sound like a band full of confidence, cockiness even and they’ve clearly moved their sound on leaps and bounds. But where others hear sonic innovation and the excitement of a Californian injection of harder rock into their sound, I hear the most hackneyed, second-hand, tired bunch of songs I’ve ever had the misfortune to wrap my ears around. I mean, it isn’t even a T-Rex rip-off, it’s more like Shawaddywaddy. Ever sound is handed down at least three generations and, to me, it feels cynical and clinically designed to press all the right buttons. Fancy a bit of solo Lennon? Why not try No 1 Party Anthem? Want a piece of QOTSA? Check out Do I Wanna Know? Want to hear the worst Led Zep cover band ever? R U Mine’s the song for you! And then it gets even more ridiculous. I mean, what the actual fuck is a song like Snap Out of It? Seriously, that could easily be sung by Atomic Kitten. Don’t laugh. Have a listen, I mean it.

    This is abysmal shit, made worse by Turner’s toe-curling Transatlantic drawl, stupid fucking quiff and general rock star bollocks that I just cannot take seriously for one second. (Fake) Tales of San Francisco indeed. Seems to me he’s become everything he once laughed at.

    Still, who am I? Everyone loves this record. I’m pissing in the wind. They’re huge all over the world playing their weird glam rock hybrid and Sheffield is just a distant memory as they lie by their swimming pools in the eternal sun of the City of Angels. I just hope that somewhere deep in the hearts, they somehow know that this is a pastiche of actual rock music and they should be fucking ashamed of themselves.

  3. nolankane706

    Brother Guy, thanks for putting this album in my life. After their last effort I most likely would have delayed getting involved with this until I heard much feedback from my peers. I like this album and have given it a fair bit of listening time over the last few weeks.

    This to me is the album that the Arctic Monkeys tried to make a few years back but weren’t where they wanted to be to do so properly. Lets clear the air from the get go; this album as brother David says is more LA than Sheffield. I don’t have an issue with this at all. If the Arctic Monkeys were still making the same music they did on their first album then we would have tired of it a long time ago. With that if you compare their latest effort to their first there is a galaxy of difference. Their growth is something I’m more than happy with.

    Sonically this is a very well produced album that pulls a fair bit of influences from 70’s American Rock, and ties nicely with strong hooks and catchy choruses. On that note even in their beginnings; Alex Turner was good at this. In 2004 we all got our first taste of this band. Almost 10 years later we have grown up (or tried at least) and so has this band. What I like about this record is that here is a band that aside from Alex Turner’s natural cockiness has kept pretty grounded and has made a relevant record.

    I understand why brother David doesn’t like this and his points are true to a certain extent. But I throw this back his way: what kind of music should they be making then?

  4. misterstory

    My previous post mentioned that I come into this album with a considerable amount of good will to this band. I am not sure if that good will is enough to see me through.

    When I first got it and popped it in my car stereo and Do I Wanna Know thrust it’s itself at me, I was really excited. Wow. That is a (derivative) but BIG powerful way to start an album.

    The ‘Humbug’ album (I think it was their 3rd) that was the Josh Homme produced departure from ‘Sheffield’ was met with luke warm responses. I really liked it. It was all over to place but I really enjoyed it and still do. I missed the album they released after that and so was hoping that this would build on Humbug. But I don’t think they’ve built. They may have stalled. They may have regressed.

    I agree with much that Guy and Nolan have said and I do appreciated David’s hatred. For me, I am just a bit disappointed. I think mostly I am lyrically disappointed. I’ve read loads of glowing reports for the album and I’ve never seen the words ‘sonic’ or ‘sonically’ so consistently used. I think many of the reviews are correct, it does sound great. The noise they make is great …. but I think they or Alex (can’t be arsed to check the credits) forgot to write the lyrics and just scribbled something down before the last recording session where the producer pointed out that there was no vocal track. There are some truly atrocious lyrics. Atrocious. I wanna be yours? WTF!!?? I read an interview with Alex Turner some years ago where he detailed his delight in American fans having to google his very English references (apparently sparking a cult following for Frank Spencer). I wanna be yours feels like it was created solely for this purpose. ‘I wanna be your ‘leccy meter and I’ll never run out’. Alex! You! Have! To! Try! Harder! Than! That! My feelings about this album both lyrically and ‘sonically’ are similar to the Kanye Yeezus rant but this makes me way less angry than that pile of shit. This just makes me sigh.

    I can and will listen to this in the future. But I won’t be reaching for it often. I think I will always go for Humbug if i want to listen to an Arctic Monkeys album.

  5. whyohwhyohwhy

    Fuckers, I posted a really long reply and it got booted out. Arse.

    What I will say is that I totally get the responses, and I’ve had similar ones from either people that don’t like them anyway, or that love them and think this is rubbish. I’ve got very little to compare it to, so I don’t feel prejudiced or have any previous to go on, so that’s probably why I love it. It’s the sound of a band growing up and developing to me, and having a lot of fun doing it. And I can’t be disappointed with that.

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