Dfff, Clap, Dfff, Clap… BOWMM… and so on. This is my attempt at explaining through the written word the seminal sexuality of ‘Do I wanna Know,’ track one off the Arctic Monkey’s fifth album AM. However to be frank, it is beyond words.
Great musicians like The Beatles, Dylan, Nirvana et cetera have all had that one album that removes them from the realms of ‘rock an roll’ and places them under the title ‘artist’. Now as many people are aware, thanks to the cancerous existence of ‘talent’ shows, the word artist has lost its gravity. It has even become to some, a dirty word. But unfortunately there isn’t any other description I can think of that can be used in its place to explain its original meaning. So I must begrudgingly use it.
This is that album for the Arctic Monkeys. This is their Sergeant Pepper’s, their Nevermind, their Bringing it all Back Home. It is their avenue from rock an roll to artiste-dom. But, and here is where the excitement lies, it is their magnum opus, but only for their career so far. I firmly believe what we are witnessing here, is like the first few local wins of a future gold medallist. Basically they’ll still get a lot better.
Yet it’s important to note with AM that it is the final piece of evidence that proves the Arctic Monkeys are capable of absolute difference on each record, yet having a signature sound always crooning through. And that for me is the sign of a great band.
The album starts with ‘Do I wanna Know’, a thick, slow, rhythm driven monster of a tune. As bulky as a hooligan’s fist and as groovy as a seventies strip joint. It has that element, that Cool, that dark sleaze that rock an roll is supposed to have. The stylishness, the testosterone, the rebellion. As well as all the other components, too many to mention, of a way of life, we all at times yearn for.
And yearning is what the song concerns itself with, “‘Cause there’s this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat, Until I fall asleep”.
A theme that has always been there in Turner’s lyrics is this state of longing. The desire for something that is out of reach, often physically, mostly figuratively.
R U Mine follows in a similar vein, but with a far grungier sound. On first hearing the record in its entirety, this song rang out for me. As someone who likes the loud, the crashing and the violently beautiful in music, a sound made up of big guitars, mad drums and a forlorn boozer on vocals, this song made my day.
“And I go crazy ’cause here isn’t where I wanna be
And satisfaction feels like a distant memory
And I can’t help myself,
All I wanna hear her say is “Are you mine? “
That haze of opiate-like pleasure rising and the realisation of finding oneself again alone. The most recursive dent in the human experience. This Turner has captured and expressed in the manner of a revamped Richard Hawley. R U Mine, I have to admit Alex, is another groovy classic baby.
On all previous Arctic Monkeys records there have been one or two songs that didn’t quite do it for me. On Suck it and See it was ‘That’s where you’re wrong’, on Humbug, it was ‘Secret Door’, and so on. It would be dull to go through each album pointing out the songs that didn’t quite ‘do it for me’. Because the fact is, the ones I’ve mentioned and the ones I haven’t are all still great songs. Just in the context of the albums they’re on, I found them perhaps, weaker. Yet on AM, I have not found this. Each song is a boom-bastic, absolute-fantastic reminder that the Arctic Monkeys utterly deserve all the praise they get.
Hold your horses, I’m not done yet.
“Arabella’s got some interstellar-gator skin boots
And a helter skelter ’round her little finger and I ride it endlessly
She’s got a Barbarella silver swimsuit
And when she needs to shelter from reality she takes a dip in my daydream.”
Whoever this Arabella is, she sounds like a right saucy piece. And her song follows suit. Another hip grinder with the occasional “Whoa” that makes you lurch and a guitar solo so dirty it would make a pornstar blush.
It’s a song that could not be played by anyone other than the Arctic Monkeys. But not the ‘Whatever you say I am, that’s what I’m not’, Arctic Monkeys. Only the leathered up, quiffed, ‘part Southern preacher man and part Northern bingo caller’ Alex Turner fronted Arctic Monkeys that we have today.
Some say it’s too much, the album, his look. To those I say, you are not enough, that is the problem. We live in a world of being cool within reason. No one wants that. It’s a half pint, vegan crisp world and it depresses me. It’s like living in Matalan. The fact is drink is beautiful, cigarettes are cool and rock stars dressed like tits is what I want to see. What the world should want to see.
And overall AM has that; it has the almost now antiquated idea of rock an roll, yet infused with contemporary hip-hop-like beats and lyrics capable of physically bending one’s mind. The other songs on the album all hold me in a similar trance, yet it is always uniquely played out. ‘No.1 Party Anthem’ an ironically slow ballad that has shadows of Ray Charles’ ‘Georgia on my Mind’ lurking within it. Whereas ‘Snap out of it’, has a message that we should all pay heed too.
So, you know what? Buy AM. Turn it up loud, read Bukowski or John Cooper Clarke, slick back your hair and be cool like it’s supposed to be.
Thank you for Reading.