Track-By-Track Review: Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’


David Handley has been revisiting Arctic Monkeys‘ discography to celebrate release of their new album. Now that ‘AM’ is finally here, he dissects the album track-by-track to see whether the hype can be believed.

Thanks to an online leak, the new Arctic Monkeys album has already been with us for a week before its ‘official’ release date. It’s a real snapshot in time of a band letting loose and enjoying themselves, and the lives they have found themselves thrust in to.

If you are still hoping for a repeat of their debut album you will be disappointed, as well as a little misguided in what you think Arctic Monkeys are. They couldn’t be any further away from the band that wrote and released the fastest selling debut album of all time but that is by no means a bad thing. They have grown, matured and developed as musicians in the intervening eight years and they are now one of the biggest bands in the world.
Over the last week we have had a chance to listen back to the previous albums by the band and there is a feeling that this album is where they have always been heading. Step by step, the band have found new influences which have taken them further and further away from their roots, both as a band and personally.
Expectation hasn’t been this high since they released their debut, the question is can they still live up to they hype?

Do I Wanna Know? (*****)

You’ve heard this by now, the band opened their Glastonbury headline set with it this year – the first time they played the track live in the UK. It opens up with a steady, solid drum beat from Matt Helders then in comes a slow, swirling guitar riff from Alex Turner.

R U Mine? (*****)

Next up is ‘R U Mine?‘, the track that was first released last year and is surely one of the finest songs Arctic Monkeys have ever written. The fact that it still sounds fresh is a testament to the power of the song. ‘R U Mine?‘ and ‘Do I Wanna Know?‘ fit together so well that you would swear they were written for that purpose. They start the album off and set the tone for what is to follow.

One For The Road’ (****)

The first ‘new’ track that we hear on ‘AM‘ is ‘One For The Road‘, which opens up with falsetto backing vocals from Helders and Nick O’Malley. The band had been talking up their love of RnB in the lead up to this release, and it is in these backing vocals that it shines through most. The contrast between this and Alex’s croon works really well and adds an interesting new dimension to the bands sound.

Arabella (*****)

Next up is ‘Arabella‘, which begins with some of the most interesting lyrics Turner has ever written, “Arabella’s got some interstellar gator skin boots, and a Helter Skelter round her little finger and I ride it endlessly”. O’Malley’s bass winds its way irresistibly around Jamie Cook‘s tight guitar lines to create the perfect atmosphere for this number about the mysteriously sexy Arabella.

I Want It All (***)

In this track Turner experiments with a falsetto for the first time and, as with everything else on this record, it works perfectly. Backed by a guitar riff from Cook which sounds like it came straight from a T-Rex single and tight rhythms from Helders and O’Malley, this is a real glam stomp of a record and works in lightening the mood. This record is full of party tracks and this is another.

No. 1 Party Anthem (*****)

Talking of party tracks, the name of this song is very deceiving. ‘No.1 Party Anthem‘ is surprisingly low key, with a slower tempo and it sounds almost as if it’s come straight from the Submarine soundtrack which Turner composed with a playful bass line from O’Malley running through the background. Lush and melodic, it is very reminiscent of ‘Cornerstone‘ and is a real understated highlight of the record.

Mad Sounds (***)

Another track that is very 70s in its sound and production. We’ve heard Turner talking up Lou Reed’s influence on this album and it is most obvious here. ‘Mad Sounds‘ is a love song to music itself, and the effect it can have on your mood.

Fireside (***)

Fireside‘ is a break up song; Turner wants to move on from a girl but keeps seeing images of her in his mind. The story is carried along on the back of galloping guitars and a thunderous drum beat.

Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? (****)

The hip hop influence on the record is most apparent here, both in the beat and Turner’s vocal delivery. On first listen, this seemed to be a strange choice for a single but it becomes much more interesting with every listen.

Snap Out Of It (****)

One of the most straight forward, catchy pop songs on the album. What’s most interesting is the contrast between Turner’s quintessentially English lyrics and the American style of music which is increasingly dominating their sound.

Knee Socks (****)

The lyrics and delivery here are straight out of ‘Suck It And See‘ territory, but the influence and appearance of Josh Homme gives the track a ‘Humbug‘ feel. Arctic Monkeys’ love of film is shown once again in the lyrics as the 1973 Martin Scorsese film Mean Streets is referenced in the bridge, which leads into Hommes’ appearance, and one of the most interesting sections of the whole record.

I Wanna Be Yours (*****)

Every Arctic Monkeys album thus far has closed on a high with possibly the best tracks off each record – ‘A Certain Romance‘, ‘505‘, ‘The Jeweller’s Hands‘ and ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong‘. That tradition is continued here in some style.
Borrowing lyrics from John Cooper Clarke, this is essentially a plea to a lover for her to let Turner be hers. It is the smaller details which again make this track so great. The slow paced music creates an atmosphere which fits perfectly with Cooper Clarke’s words and for the first time we hear Arctic Monkeys use a drum machine, it is done to great effect.


When listening to and reviewing an Arctic Monkeys record, it is hard to not get too caught up in the power of their lyrics. Alex Turner proves once again here that he is arguably the finest wordsmith of our generation. As is to be expected ,the frontman will get most of the attention and acclaim  but ‘AM‘ is truly the sound of a band that are all on top form.

Every listen will uncover a new detail to fall in love with. There are so many parts here that only reveal themselves after more than one listen, from lyrics, to guitar riffs, subtle bass lines and drum flourishes. It is these details which make ‘AM ‘a great record and one that can be enjoyed time and time again.

The most intriguing thing about ‘AM‘ however is where it leaves Arctic Monkeys going forward – what do they do next? Even the band themselves probably don’t know but it is going to be a pleasure finding out.


David Handley
David Handley is a 26 year old from Wolverhampton. He has blogged for Sabotage Times and Culture / Trash among others and runs a Literature blog for The Express & Star. He is a lyric fan and loves all sorts of music, but will always have a soft spot for early 2000's indie. CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Augustines, THE XX, Blossoms. David can be found at @DavidHandley on twitter or at his blog -

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