Paulelmo's Blog

Arctic Monkeys’ AM (2013)–the weekend review #18

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I think of this album, AM, the fifth LP release from Arctic Monkeys, as just about as applicable an album as you can find. Every song seems to speak the perfect setting for itself; I don’t recall getting that impression from an album before.

Still, I do here; every one of the 12 songs tells me pretty quickly just what situation would fit it perfectly. The effect is pleasant, as the 45 or so minutes of the listening places me in 12 distinct thoughts and feelings, and all of them are pleasant enough spots for wool-gathering. This album feels as if I’m in a movie, the scenes of which are written into the feel and lyrics of the songs.

The album begins with “Do I Wanna Know,” and, yes, I know you thought this was a Black Keys song, but it’s not; it’s an Arctic Monkeys tune. In the movie, I’m listening to this one while I’m driving around alone contemplating a troublesome love relationship, listening to the song pensively through the verses and then beginning to sing along to the chorus. I could do it; I  could. You could too. Get you a piece of the world that can pass for English countryside and the kind of sweet ass ride you’d drive in a movie and just have at it. You could.

“R U Mine?” is the second song, and I know you thought this was a Black Keys song, but it’s not; it’s an Arctic Moneys tune. This would be the song that played as I walked through a smoky bar I’ve never been in before. I’d be looking for something, but the audience wouldn’t be sure what; nor would they know if I even knew. The men in the bar would eye me, the interloper, a bit suspiciously, while the women’s eyebrows would raise a bit in interest as I, the mysterious stranger, passed. A fight might break out around me, but I wouldn’t notice.

In “One for the Road,” the next track, the lyricist writes the scene for me. I’ve found what I was looking for in the bar–it was a woman of course–and some others and I have gathered at her place for an after party. In not so many words, this song conveys the message I  wouldn’t be too timid to send out: The only thing that I’m concerned with right now is…

Track number four, “Arabella,” is a straight up drug dream. I think they might have taken the demo disk of this song and dipped it in liquid acid. I can almost see the smoke, and I wonder if I might run into an 80s era English glam-pop band that learned to make better music than they used to make. And then I ride the vibe straight into it, and everything gets a bit more manic leading up to when the guitar gets all frenzied, and I spin out, and it’s over. And now I gotta go on to the next tune, but how am I going to have the head for that?

And that takes me into “I Want it All,” and I’m relieved that the transition is smoother than I thought it could be. I’m back in the car driving, but now I’m in a bustling city, and the car is full of friends. We’re each singing along to the song, and the world’s just right a rain.

“No. 1 Party Anthem” is a song that might make me forget it’s playing, because I’m too busy looking to see if John Lennon or David Bowie might be hiding somewhere and playing a trick on me. People who dig the tempo and vibe of this album might be a bit let down by the slower pace of this song. Said people might enjoy it more if they listened to it late at night, alone with the one they love, after the rest of the world seems to be sleeping. That’s the scene it goes to in my film.

In “Mad Sounds,” my love and I fully establish ourselves as the stars of the movie. It’s still later in the night, and she sleeps on my chest, as I relax on a sofa, the credits of a classic movie rolling on the TV screen in front of me. I am relaxed and content. I let the rest of the world go ahead and sleep; I don’t need any of it anyway.

In “Fireside,” the newness of our love has ebbed, and I’m walking and searching again. I go back to the same bar, and, once again, it isn’t clear if it’s even her that I’m looking for. I leave having not found what I came hoping to find.

And now we have gotten here, estranged and at times with points of contention. Still, we are needy people, even more so in our aimless and lonely wondering, and the question just has to be asked, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” The question is asked without malice or disdain; it has too much vibe for that nonsense. Instead it’s a bit whimsical, playful even. This is a good-natured rib; it it weren’t, it would mean she isn’t pleased that she got the call, and she’s pleased she got the call.

“Snap out of It” has such flow and vibe that if it were a 70s TV actor, it would be Antonio Fargas. (I’ll let you look that one up.) In our movie, she and I have drifted apart so long and far that we’ve actually made it there, and she has even gotten to the point where she thinks some other man might do it for her. As if. “Snap out of it” is my hope to remind her what she and I both know, that there ain’t no way there’s anybody but each other who can be the one for us. Again, there’s no malice or ill will here; rather, there’s just that lighthearted feel of a good ol’ “Come on, woman; you and I both know better than that.”

“Knee Socks,” the next to last song on the album, keeps the feel rolling into a more funkier vein. The band’s cadence continues to prove interesting, and Queens of the Stone Age front man, Josh Homme, adds memorable backing vocals on the chorus. In the movie, I imagine her kicking around her place, as I walk through an outdoor market, not really seeing what I’m looking at. Each of us is wanting to be with the other, but neither of us knows how to say it.

“I Wanna Be Yours” takes us through the end credits; our slice of life vignettes have brought no happy ending or even an ending of any kind that promises anything like closure. The album fades with her still walking around her apartment, weighing options and wondering about taking a chance, and me still strolling through that market, trying to figure out how to recover something I never should have lost and looking straight through the things that come right in front of my eyes.

AM is just a good old romp of an album, and it you’re not onto Arctic Monkeys, it might be time you got there; especially if you like your rock and roll with a bit of funk and vibe and jive. If that’s the case, these dudes are just your bag.

Be well, friends, and thanks for reading. See you here sometime soon.

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