Arctic Monkeys’ new album ‘AM’ is a refreshing, mix of genres

Alexander McCall

British rockers Arctic Monkeys exploded onto the music scene in 2006 with their debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.”

Full of spastic, cynical post-punk, the album quickly became the fastest-selling record in the U.K., due mostly to the band’s savvy Internet presence.

The massive wave of hype the Monkeys rode was enough that no one would’ve blamed the band for burning out quickly. To their credit, Arctic Monkeys have evolved considerably over the course of their career, making interesting detours along the way.

Much of Arctic Monkey’s omnivorous musical appetite comes from front man Alex Turner’s restless creative vision. Early Monkeys albums sometimes painted Turner as a punk caricature, but more recently he’s been proving detractors wrong. 

In some ways, the Monkeys’ last few records – “Humbug” and “Suck It and See” – scan as a band trying to find its way out of its own corner. But with their stellar new album “AM,” it seems that they’ve finally done exactly that.

Although “AM” folds in influences as disparate as Black Sabbath, Dr. Dre and the Black Keys, it sounds like nothing less than a coming-of-age party for this singular band.

Dialing back the group’s vocal and musical affectations, “AM” is a tightly produced, confident pop album that rocks like early Queens of the Stone Age and bumps like East Coast hip-hop.

The hard-driving sounds behind this album turn out to be an excellent platform for Turner, who spins drunken late-night tales that double as both party anthems and dark, complex love stories.

His vocal melodies are a real high point of this album and owe a lot to classic R&B. Turner delivers with help from bassist Nick O’Malley and Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme. The result is an album packed with infectious hooks delivered without a trace of the band’s former ironic slant.

Opening single “Do I Wanna Know?” and the “War Pigs”-ripping “Arabella” are some of the band’s best songs, building incredible momentum with energetic riffs and dense, hard-hitting mixing.

The album’s sound might be scrubbed a little too clean for some fans; this album was clearly labored over in the studio. But for this listener, the steely, percussive funk in which the band indulges is refreshing and appealing.

Whether or not future Arctic Monkeys albums will continue in this vein is up in the air. Part of the fun of “AM” comes from the band’s desire to not stay in one place.

Whatever the case, “AM” is an exceedingly fun album from a band whose subtle reinvention over the years seems to have paid off.

REVIEW: COLIN MOORE, Senior A&E Reporter