Altuesdays: Arctic Monkey’s “AM” can best be described as underwhelming

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Sophia Fowler '22, Multimedia Manager

Listen to “Altuesdays Episode 3: Arctic Monkey’s “AM”” on Spreaker. 

Like most bands already discussed in this series, Arctic Monkeys as a group have been able to truly capitalize off of late 2000s/early 2010s alternative style with their own individualized twist. Arctic Monkeys have not only created some of the most iconic songs of the 2014 Tumblr aesthetic, they’ve made a brand for themselves.
Their fifth studio album released in 2013, “AM” is by far the staple album in this era of alternative rock. Whether it’s the actual sound of the album or the iconic soundwave cover, the awkwardly simplicity of this album is clearly rooted deeply in garage band sounds of the early 2000s with a 2010s twist, as they swung their bat at late 60s/early 70s rock. This album can only be described as a crossover of different decades with cohesion very few artists are able to fully achieve.
The album opens with Do I Wanna Know? which was by far the smartest song to place as track number one. The overall sound is reflective of what is to be experienced in the rest of the album with a strong drum and guitar melody backed by an incredibly noticeable bassline. Lead singer Alex Turner’s voice is more of an accent to the actual instrumental, versus an overpowering force, which is equally experimental and comforting in terms of alternative, where lyricism and voice raptured sounds are the more common norm. But what truly makes this song both perfect as an opening track, and additionally placed it as a pretty popular song over nearly the last decade, is the melancholic anger that can only be described best as an emotional chokehold listeners will happily endure throughout the rest of the album.
R U Mine? is the next track, and quite frankly, is a great rock track, but feels like it flatlined in terms of being anything but an add-on track to Do I Wanna Know? This is by far a more anger-filled track of personal turmoil within Turner’s compared to the much broader emotional range of many of the other tracks on this album. But all in all, it’s by no means a bad song, but it’s not a great one either.
The third track, One For the Road again follows the cohesiveness set already in the album, but almost felt slightly disgusting. It was messy and mushy, too bland to be a noticeable song on the album, aside from the strong guitar presence. The echoing of the title of the song throughout the song is eerily haunting, and quite frankly the only noticeable form of musically engineering decency on the entire track.
Arabella is an odd but brilliant mixture of transitional sounds on “AM” in versus, a later Beatles sound in the pre-verse, and a weird mixture of both in the chorus. This is by far one of the most notable songs on the album, with a form of brilliant imagery in Turner’s lyrics all while being complimented again by retro guitar sounds and harsh drumlines. While this song was clearly meant to be experimental, it came out sounding phenomenal in terms of retaining the staple sounds of the album while jumping into new waters at the same time.
No. 1 Party Anthem, the sixth track on the album, is again an experimental song filled with irony and pure melancholic feeling from a 60s era track. This track alone is a gorgeous example of melancholy on an album being used with phenomenal means, and pursuing every definition the word “irony” has to hold. The title of the song implies a clear up beat, head banger of a song, but instead the song is anything but that, and in all truth, is an illustrative form towards the power of irony when used properly in music.
The next truly notable track on the album happens to possibly be the band’s most iconic song, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? this truly upbeat and fun song is the definition of simplicity, and executes a bare track with heartfelt and hurting lyrics. But at it’s core, this song is easily one of those songs that just makes you want to get up and dance. Despite it’s release almost a decade ago, this song has managed to pertain it’s relevance, and still happens to be filled on platforms like TikTok, and filled in dozens of Spotify playlists of loney teenagers who need to just feel something sometimes. The timelessness of this song mixed with the lack of complication it creates is what makes it such an iconic alternative song.
I Wanna Be Yours is, in my opinion, the worst track that this album could have ended with. The lyrics are ridiculously cheesy, such as “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner” and romanticise hookup culture, which is extremely contrary to the other treacherous lyrics about messed up love that almost feels like an endless cycle of toxicity. I truly pray this song is supposed to be ironic, and a complete joke in terms of the album, because taking this song seriously is practically a circus within itself.
The thing that truly stands out about this album is the aesthetic that matches the cohesiveness of almost every song. Yet the immaturity of the lyrics, the lack of poetic meaning, and the struggle Turner has to use his only device of imagery leaves this album in a position as being nothing more than a good “intro to alternative music” album. There is little complexity to this album, which thrives on some tracks, and plays a train wreck on others.
As someone who has never been an Arctic Monkeys fan, but who has respected their position in the alternative music genre and will happily sing along to their hits, I was left overall disappointed with this album. After the level of hype it’s received throughout the years it left me with a longing feeling that can only be described with the word “ew”. By an artists fifth studio album, they should be achieving for a level of timelessness and greatness that very few can achieve, the Arctic Monkeys being a great examples. While the aesthetically pleasing nature of the vibes off of this album will maintaining the longtime glue of platforms like Tumblrs, and will still be incredibly important for plaid-wearing teenagers still breaking in their Dr. Martens, this album is by no means impressive in the general scheme of alternative.