Arctic Monkeys – AM (Domino)
CD / LP / DL
Due out 9th Sept
Is this the first post indie album?
Indie has become a redundant concept- an IKEA music- a snap together set of shelves of easily assimilated influences, a sex less sales pitch for competent guitar bands, a posh boys- forming in the dorm -with their designer scruffy, clothes pretending they are blues men for the apocalypse scene.
It means nothing any more and the Arctic Monkeys, whether they realise this or not, have moved way beyond this musical genre, this musical grave.
It’s mid way through the sumptuous ballad on the album, Party Anthem Number One, that you realise this is a band that is creating at its own speed and is not only post indie but post genre.
The Arctic Monkeys in 2013 seriously rock but in a way that they are not a rock band- they rock but they also vary their sound like the great bands like the Beatles when they owned the sixties and Bowie when he owned the seventies in that way that they can rock when they want, the can do sumptuous ballads when they want, they can do big space music, they can do neo disco and it all belongs to them. They are beyond genre and have escaped the indie noose when the indie noose had no more meaning any more.
It’s also time to back away from the cultural cringe- this belief that the past is always better. The Arctic Monkeys are as good as any of the bands that line the museums of rock- they are up there with Beatles, Bowie the record collection bands and AM has the scope and ambition to state this case.
So they return all grown up.
The last great ‘band of a generation’- you know the four boys against the world who wrote their own stuff and took on the planet and kinda won sort of band, have returned grappling with those time honoured themes of growing up in the spotlight.
When they appeared on the scene they seemed hopelessly and brilliantly young- a youth club band with insane talent and a fierce work ethic. The media were initially sniffy because of Alex Turner’s accent -calling him George Formby- LIKE THAT AN INSULT!
The band got huge with a combination of being on a great label Domino- who understood how to let talent breathe, a ridiculous amount of talent that saw catchy songs in skittering indie guitar pop style armed with brilliant lyrics that documented the early part of this century and the small town lives that most people lived in. They were the gutter poets of their generation- just like Lennon had been, Strummer and Rotten had been, Morrissey had been- and it only took one song for them to stake this claim- they were that good that and they were staking their claim from the off and the word was out and the band got stupidly massive.
This was nothing to do with the mooted myspace. This was to do with songs and touring. This mega success left them with the situation of how to deal with the fame and they did the time honoured and very northern thing of retreating into their shell- defended by their very northernism that remained even when they moved to London.
Like the Beatles meeting Dylan and growing into the big bad world they hooked up with Queens of the Stone Age for albums 3 and 4 and heavied it up a bit. They changed their sound, retreated from the spokesmen of their generation mantle and seemed happy to settle back into being a cult band just beyond the mainstream fringe, avoiding the inane celeb babble but were still scoring huge album success in the UK and festival headline status- partly because they were brilliant and partly became there was no one else out there.
Since the Arctic Monkeys the posh boys have taken over and accents like Alex Turners have pretty much dispapeared from the pop parlance- at the AIM independent awards the other night every band sounded very polished and posh- it was like a different world! Modern indie is designer frocks and champaigne and market shares- this is not an evil thing just a different thing.
The band’s return is into an even more confused music world than the one they started in and they are still on a creative course of their own as AM with its big songs and big themes proves. It would be easy to keep chucking out those sprightly fast guitar hits but they are now sitting somewhere between rock and er, a hard place. There are moments on here when they sound like a mid seventies rock album with a whiff of Bad Company, an ooze of led Zeppelin, a few hints of ELO, a touch of the Queens of the Stone Age but all filtered through a pop touch, an old school indie coolness, a garage band ethic.
The Arctic Monkeys can defiantly rock and parts of AM would not sound out of place on a rock radio station but they also have that indie savvy, that northern cool where freaking out is looked on with disdain but those freaky riffs are deeply loved. This sits in well with the big songs- the ballads, the dripping melancholia.
I guess endless touring does this to a band, rocking a crowd is the key to touring and the songs get heavier but as the stadiums get bigger the ballads sound better.
There are all sorts of twists and turns on the album- from the riffing to the space in the tracks to Alex Turner’s falsetto that he pulls out now and then to the post Queens of the Stone Age desert blues guitar solos- even if its rainswept moors near Sheffield than cactus and palms it still feels right.
This is a very different beast from the gawky and brilliant young foals that emerged in the music world several years ago but it would be ridiculous to expect them to still be there now.
AM is a new confident band. Post chrysalis, now butterflies bot broken on anyone’s wheel, there is loss of innocence and crank in the decibels and the scent a band that is no longer indie. But classic.