Ever since Alex Turner and co recorded the 24 songs that would eventually become the Arctic Monkey’s 2009 release ‘Humbug’ in Joshua Tree, California, the influence of Josh Homme and QOTSA has permeated nearly every record the band have produced.
Humbug itself marked a noticeable shift in focus and delivery, showcasing the band’s evolution from creating light-hearted, yet cynical songs to a search for a far more expansive if darker sound.
This shift in style proved difficult for many of the band’s young fans to accept and this friction was emphasised even more when Turner decided to remove some crowd favourites from the band’s setlist’s on a permanent basis.
However, as the band matured both musically and emotionally, such pretentious tendencies started to dissipate and the Arctic Monkeys seemed to have discovered a way in which to balance their newer, darker material with the more familiar weary ballads that became such crowd favourites i.e. Mardy Bum.
2011’s ‘Suck it and See’ showcased a band capable of this balancing act and though the album was accused (wrongly) by some of having no obvious singles, the band’s fourth studio album displayed Turner at his melancholy best. There were some exquisite ballads such as ‘Piledriver Waltz’ and ‘Black Treacle’ but the band also provided darker sounding songs such as ‘Don’t sit down cos I’ve moved your chair’ and ‘All my own stunts’.
Thus when anticipating the band’s next release I was keen to see if such a balance would again be sought and what influences would be noticeable from an ever evolving group of musicians, most notably lead singer Alex Turner.
Arctic Monkey’s fifth studio album reveals the band to have further pursued and refined the dark expansive sound listeners initially heard with Humbug, with album opener ‘Do I want to know’ exemplifying this most obviously.
From the moment I heard the band’s second single I couldn’t help but crave to hear how well its expansive, stadium like ambition would translate to a festival setting and considering the band’s choice to open their Glastonbury 2013 set with the song, I didn’t have to wait long to see its potential realised.
Josh Homme’s influence is evident throughout AM with the band producing irregular minor scale riffs, high vocal harmonies and a deliberately oozing pace that reveals the record’s allegiance to night time listening.
Homme’s influence is particularly noticeable in the increasingly weary vocal delivery of Alex Turner, who delivers his usual sardonic wit with a refreshing ease.
In terms of pace there are a few notable exceptions such as the frenetic ‘R U Mine’, which evokes the band’s ability to produce songs with a seemingly relentless yet murky drive such as 2007’s ‘Brianstorm’.
‘R U Mine’ also showcases the consistently impressive tightness of the band’s instrumentation with an intricately constructed drum and bass arrangement.
Although it may appear easy to identify the influence working with QOTSA has had upon the band, there are a number of other notable influences on AM, such as Lou Reed-esque ‘Mad Sounds’ and the ever present weary Turner ballad ‘No 1 Party Anthem’ evoking the catalogue of John Lennon and Morrisey.
Though AM has not explicitly been labelled as a conceptual album, the entire record evokes a night out with friends, a messy alcohol or perhaps substance fuelled night that has no predetermined trajectory, no guarantees as to who it will and will not include and no foreseeable conclusion in sight.
Scary as it may seem, this is a night out on which we would all want to tag along.