Who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys?

It’s a question we’ve been asking since the band’s Myspace charged beginnings in 2006.

With each new release the answer has always been changed or updated. The four-piece are one of the more interesting British bands we’ve seen evolve over the past seven or eight years.

While AM borrows elements from each of its predecessors it’s not like the consolidation of Humbug that Suck It And See was, instead it’s a much flashier, more accessible and heavier upgrade.

Or at least for the first five tracks that is. The Monkeys’ fifth album can be clearly divided into three different parts. It is their most inconsistent offering to date.

But as interviews clearly point out it’s the album they wanted to make and that record would appear to be a varied and sometimes cheeky beast. Although the humor and cheesiness present in tracks such as ‘No.1 Party Anthem’, ‘Knee Socks’ and ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ isn’t exactly a new development as their discography demonstrates.

While the first five tracks trade in Suck It And See’s romanticism for sex appeal they maintain the previous two album’s dark guitar lines.

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‘Arabella’ and ‘I Want It All’ bear the fruits of the band’s new found inspirations in Black Sabbath, while the echoing of backup vocals on ‘One For The Road’ is one of the few consistencies that holds throughout most of AM, whether they be courtesy of Homme, Helders or someone else.

But it’s during the likes of ‘No.1 Party Anthem’, ‘Mad Sounds’ and ‘Fireside’ that the band throws the rulebook out the window for an Americana jaunt.

The two former songs are far closer to Alex Turner’s work on the Submarine OST than anything else. Albeit bereft of the same charm.

In fact ‘Mad Sounds’ is reminiscent of the same weakness of ‘Only One Who Knows’ from Favourite Worst Nightmare. Slow burning ballads have never been there strongest point.

The final act of AM is a mixed bag. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ would sit more comfortably with the earlier half of the record as the Monkeys get jazzed up for the first time on ‘Snap Out Of It’ while the R’n’B comes out in ‘Knee Socks’.

‘I Wanna Be Yours’ contains some of the more interesting lyrics of AM (“I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust”).

But this is the work of punk poet John Cooper Clarke not Turner. The frontman is instead unusually more straightforward, compared with his past wittier tongue twisters and is therefore somewhat bland in his lyrics here.

At least Turner sticks to his love spun guns though.

Stylistically AM contains some good ideas, but far too many of them – notably from ‘No.1 Party Anthem’ onwards – aren’t executed with the same proficiency that the Arctic Monkeys have been able to achieve in the past.

So then, with their fifth album, it once again begs the question; who the fuck are they?

The answer was excitable with their first two releases, while Humbug and Suck It And See kept us guessing, but with AM the response to that question is now far murkier than it has ever been.

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