I've been listening to Arctic Monkeys pretty much non-stop for the last three months.
If I'm being honest, I owe this recent obsession to PEAKY BLINDERS (a slick show, worthy of its own post). Prior to watching, I'd really only heard Favourite Worst Nightmare. But since Arctic Monkeys make up the majority of the PEAKY BLINDERS soundtrack (along with PJ Harvey, Royal Blood, and a few others), I found myself listening to more and more of their music, until one day I woke up with Alex Turner's face tattooed across my chest.
(Or am I?)
Incidentally, I think it says something about the state of the music industry these days that, aside from word of mouth, I find out about more new artists from TV and film than I do from radio. Or maybe that just says something about me.
But I digress.
2013's AM is, in my opinion, one of the best rock albums released in the last few years, right up there with …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age (it's no coincidence that Josh Homme of QOTSA appears on two tracks off AM). And yet, I'm constantly amazed at how few of my fellow American musicians have even heard of them. The title of their 2006 EP now seems oddly prophetic.
Just who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys? Let me see if I can break it down for you in five songs...
If you've never heard Arctic Monkeys before, you need to start with "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" off their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In many ways, it's the quintessential Arctic Monkeys track, blending a supremely danceable beat with blues rock sensibilities.
Although it took me a while to truly appreciate the rest of Favourite Worst Nightmare, I loved "If You Were There, Beware" right from the start. This is the album where they really started playing around with the kind of chromatic riffs that make me question my sobriety.
"Dangerous Animals" off Humbug is one of those insidious songs that worms its way into your brain, gobbles up all the gray matter, and leaves you drooling on your stoop at 3 AM wondering what the hell happened.
Which brings us to AM.*
The album starts off strong, with a brooding homage to stoner rock that somehow remains danceable. I love that even after five albums, the band's Sheffield roots still shine through. Turner peppers his lyrics with summats and settees, unafraid of the past, utterly unconcerned with the future.
There's something indefinably English about "Arabella." Perhaps it's the not-so-subtle nod to "War Pigs." Or perhaps it's because it's the kind of song you can fuck shit up to.
So...who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys? One of the most underrated bands making music today.
No worries if you don't agree. I doubt they give a fuck.
*Although Arctic Monkeys put out an album between Humbug and AM, Suck It And See, frankly, it isn't my favorite. There are some good tracks, but it's probably not for the casual listener. Check out "Brick By Brick" if you're looking for some good, old-fashioned pseudo-American rockabilly played by four guys from Sheffield.
**The grammarian in me insists this song should be titled "Why D'You Only Call Me When You're High?"