Arctic Monkeys – A.M.
By Ashlyn Cole | Top Tracks: R U Mine?, Arabella, and No. 1 Party Anthem
Sensual and heated. Two words I would use to describe Arctic Monkeys’ hit album, AM. Despite fronting as an alternative rock band, Arctic Monkeys’ has always held a more eclectic sound due to their mix of psychedelic rock, indie rock, and recently, glam rock music. Compared to previous album’s sounds, AM holds all bark and total bite. It’s pungent. It’s electric. It is simply all-encompassing of a lover guiding the object of his desire through the way they make him feel passionate, questioning and needy for their attention. In particular with AM, Arctic Monkeys forgo all notions of distance and instead surge forward in a sense of possessiveness with the muse of their music. This twisted tale of a relationship bound to fall apart is placed in a tortuous ebb and flow of an unrestrained, yet forcefully contained exchange of two lovers.
Frontman Alex Turner sports a 1950’s greaser look to match his sleeker, more black and blue melodies in AM. Released on September 9th, 2013, AM topped airwaves and charts around the globe amassing over 157,000 copies in its first week. This critically acclaimed album is widely considered to be one of the greatest albums of the 2010’s decade. Contextually, this review focuses on a lyrical analysis of AM, rather than focusing on the melody.
R U Mine?, arguably one of their most popular singles and my favorite songs from Arctic Monkeys AM album and beyond, follows Turner as he navigates his desire for more than a wanton relationship with a woman. Lyrically, R U Mine?, the crux of AM, is all-encompassing of a man who desires a woman so profoundly that he is akin to a puppet, at her disposal and utterly useless without her control. Tired of being in limbo surrounding the lack of a definitive relationship, Turner sings questioningly about whether their relationship entails a hopeful commitment to one another: “Are you mine? (Or just mine tonight?)”
Following the same principle seen in R U Mine?, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High pictures the on-and-off relationship between two individuals. Turner’s infatuation is clear as he is depicted to dream about potential encounters and phone calls late into the evening while stoned. Her reply: Why’d you only call me when you’re high, is a response to Turner’s incessant check-ins, whether it was intended for romantic or sexual comfort. As further seen in Do I Wanna Know, Alex sings about himself as a paranoid lover that is fearful about the future state of his relationship.
Fraught with the apparent lack of a lucrative relationship, Arctic Monkeys discreetly slips in Mad Sounds, a ballad with sanguine undertones to counteract the disparity about the failing relationship between Turner and this woman. Instead, it teases about the power of smooth melodies filled with “Ooh la la la’s.” Hopeful, Turner reflects back on the very thing that grounds him through this turmoil: the sweet melodies of the music.
With its melody filled with soft piano, and electric guitar, this album’s main ballad, No. 1 Party Anthem, contradicts itself, for instead of a pop/rock song to match its predecessors in the album, No. 1 Party Anthem is slow and methodical to match the apprehension and tautness from the fear of fleeting sexual feelings. With a popped collar and veiled eyes underneath his signature aviator shades, Turner sets his sight on a girl silently beckoning him to follow her. Intrigued, yet hesitant, he chooses to not engage upon realizing that their “relationship” would be momentary and transactional. Following their hit single I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor, No. 1 Party Anthem serves as an ode to the party scene. Rather than immersing the listener in the act of being at a party between the body heat and sweat of others around, No. 1 Party Anthem is observant and quiet, stowed in the corner of a room stealing glances at the party rather than to be immersed in the brutality of heated glances, a messy bump-and-grind, and waking up with a killer hangover. It is instead filled with missed opportunities, unfulfilled lust, and disappointment.
Thematically, AM is more than furtive, heated glances on the dancefloor or in the bedroom. It holds notes of a complex, wilting relationship built on the disappointment, hesitation, and lack of commitment between Turner and another woman. Disillusioned and in despair, AM traverses through the fleeting desires and feelings of a refusal from both parties to acknowledge that there could be more than fleeting romance and heartbreak, there could be the capability for deep-rooted commitment, for a deep interpersonal connection that goes beyond meaningless and cursory sex.