Saturday, January 4, 2014

Album Review - Arctic Monkeys / AM

I never got the Arctic Monkeys.  Maybe because I never got Franz Ferdinand.  I like a few tracks by the Kaiser Chiefs but that is about it.  I am not saying that I didn't like them.  I'm just saying that I didn't get what it was all about.  I am a fan of pop.  I am a fan of Power Pop.  And I always will be.  They are owners of the fastest selling a debut album in British history.  I just assumed that it was a British thing.  Kind of like Oasis, who I actually quite fancy.

That all came to a crashing halt as soon as I heard 'Do I Wanna Know?'.

Gone was the Arctic Monkeys I thought I knew.  I was drawn to this from the first listen.  It's still pop...but on a much darker level.  This song is the equivalent of circling by an ex-girlfriends house 10 times at 3 am after a night of heavy drinking.

"Have you no idea that you're in deep?
I dreamt about you nearly every night this week
How many secrets can you keep?
'Cause there's this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow and I play it on repeat
Until I fall asleep
Spilling drinks on my settee"

The lyrics are things that we are all made of but never talk about.  The beat is anthemic.  The theme builds like an orgasm.  This is night time music at its best.  Their other music reminded me of other bands.  But this...this was original.  Many of my friends who were already fans of Arctic Monkeys liked this but not the direction they were heading.  As for me I was jumping on board.

I needed more.  That week I went to my favorite record shop, Randy Now's Man Cave in Bordentown, NJ and I picked up the 180 gram vinyl version.  I promised myself when I started collecting vinyl again I would limit what I would buy.  My parameters were Punk and Alternative music between the years of 1975 and 1991.  As you can see, I broke my rule.  It did include the digital download card so that helped to justify my decision.

The packaging was stark.  Black and white.  Sterile if you will.  The band photo on the inside of the gatefold reminded me of the bleakness of Kraftwerk.

Was this foreshadowing?  Perhaps of the lyrics.  I put down the needle and side 1 started with 'Do I Wanna Know?'.  The driving beat set the tone for the rest of the album.

The themes are dark.  The drums are driving.  There seems to be a marriage of influences between Hip Hop Drum Beats and 70's Rock Guitar.  From start to finish it takes you on a dark path. 'R U Mine' continues where 'Do I Wanna Know' left off and each song seems to do that for the one before it.  It is dark and upbeat at the same time and evoking the same feelings.  As a friend of mine said, "It makes you want to have violent sex."

If there wasn't a break between song 3 'One for the Road' and song 4 'Arabella' you might not have realized that the song had changed.  That is until the heavy riffs that are reminiscent of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' kick in.

The first side closes out with 'No 1 Party Anthem' which is actually more melodic and Beatle-esque.  It has been a long time since I have picked up the needle and played the same side again and with this album I did it twice with side 1.

Side 2 starts out with 'Mad Sounds' which is equally melodic.  Track 8 is 'Fireside' whose opening always reminds me of 'Torn' by Natalie Imbruglia (Sorry!).  Side 2 stays a little bluesy until Track 10, 'Snap out of it' kicks back him with the heavy drum beat, falsetto choruses, and a bass line that is almost dripping with sex.  'Knee Socks boasts a guest performance by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.

The longing of 'I Wanna be Yours' finishes out the album leaving you wanting more.  There is no wonder that this album made the Top 50 Albums of 2013 list of most every major music publication including Rolling Stone and NME.  It peaked at No 6 on Billboards 200 and No 1 in the UK.  For me, it was my top album of the year.  Do yourself a favor.  If you pick this up go the distance and buy the vinyl.  You won't regret it.

Until the next drop of the needle!


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