As we get ready to hear the latest Arctic Monkeys album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” let’s take a look back on their previous album. 2013 was a pretty triumphant year for the band, becoming the headline act for Glastonbury and releasing “AM” to critical acclaim, with NME giving the album a 10 out of 10.
A massive world tour would follow, which lasted throughout much of 2014 with about 150 dates. The band would soon go on hiatus to work on side projects.
I had just turned 17 when this album came out, it was this time where I really began to get into their music and this album being released (especially after my birthday) was the perfect time. I remember immediately downloading it right after coming home from school and played the Hell out of it throughout the first three months of my high school Junior year.
I thought they had made a modern-day masterpiece. I felt the tracklist was perfectly sequenced and it was a crazy blend of Rock, Hip-Hop and R&B. When you read their interviews of how they were listening to OutKast, Black Sabbath and Aaliyah during the making of this album, you’re just left wondering what they are going to produce.
And those sounds were quite clear when you listen to songs like “Why You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” the beats and bass are very heavy with the falsetto backing vocals. Or the grooving “Knee Socks” that has this acapella interlude.
“AM” is part of a line for the band going towards various directions in their music. “Humbug” (2009) saw the band attempt a Stoner Rock style, while “Suck It and See” (2011) had a more poppier side. Both were big changes from the high-pace garage rock from their first two albums, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” (2006) and “Favourite Worst Nightmare” (2007).
Obviously, this effort has caused a rift among fans. This new direction feels less of a rock album and while the band rocks out on tracks like “R U Mine?” and “Arabella,” they don’t give the adrenaline. The tempo is more mid-pace and focused more on the grooves of the drums and bass.
I love the backing vocals in both tracks as it displays a falsetto-like vocal that’s very soulful while contrasting with the gruff guitars and booming drum beats. It adds on to the sensual feelings towards someone within the lyrics.
Looking back at their discography, Arctic Monkeys aren’t ones to repeat what they’ve done in the past. I respect them for approaching new territory to make the songwriting better, but I feel they hadn’t reached it with “AM.”
The calming atmosphere in tracks like “Mad Sounds” is gorgeous and all, but doesn’t do anything else to make it stand out; especially compared to the last track “No. 1 Party Anthem,” which is a much more captivating song to hear.
When I look back at this album, it feels more like a never-ending experimentation by the Arctic Monkeys. While enjoyable due to the atmosphere the instruments provide, it leaves a bit to be left for desire.
Today as I hear this album, there are times where the songs feel repetitive and are tempting to skip. The guitar riff on “I Want It All” is very much like the Joy Division song “She’s Lost Control” and that it leaves me slightly annoyed. Whereas in “She’s Lost Control,” the riff is not so prominent and is timed perfectly when listening to it.
Then we have “I Wanna Be Yours,” which is a reworking of the John Cooper Clarke poem of the same name. I can’t take the song seriously, because some of the lines are very cheesy. “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust.” I mean, just writing those lyrics makes it hard for me to not laugh at how absurd it is.
This may be blasphemy to some fans, but I swear Justin Bieber can do a song like this. (Yeah, I said it. Sue me!) Literally this song is something he can do, I’m dead serious! The chorus and production of this song can give a chance for Bieber to perform with.
“AM” was a triumphant moment for the band, but the consistency of the songs has worn off the replay value of the album. I still find myself willing to listen to the key tracks, but playing it as a whole? I’m not so sure.
A listenable record but it’s something that left me wondering what’s next for the Arctic Monkeys. Who knows what the new album will bring for the fans. Will it they bring a stronger album compared to this one? Or will it be another album that will leave me wondering if they still have something worth listening?
“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” will be released on May 11th.
Label: Domino Records
Track Picks: “Do I Wanna Know,” “R U Mine?,” “Arabella,” “No. 1 Party Anthem,” “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and “Snap Out of It”
Listen to “AM” Here: