What is AM, specifically in the context of the fifth Arctic Monkeys album? Is it Ante Meridian? Amplitude Modulation? or is it, in the words of frequent collaborator Josh Homme simply sexy music for After Midnight? It doesn’t matter; the Arctic Monkeys have crafted a dark velvety album of late night tunes that merge the murk of Humbug and the pop of Suck It And See into a far more cohesive and engaging listen.
There are still moments when I miss the frantic, frenetic pace of the earlier albums, but there’s something to be said for the warm pulsing punkish pop of songs like “R U Mine” that cause me to allow for the infraction of allowing anyone other than Prince to use letters in place of words. The scuzzy fuzz tone of the guitars are back, though now in service to more of a laid-back groove than any up-front snarl. “One For The Road” has Homme contributing vocals, and it has these quiet, fragile moments of reverb that sound like it’s retreating down a dark hallway, only to come back and croon. He’s also featured on “Knee Socks” which gets the vote for creepy retro track that nevertheless hangs on and works by way of sheer determination.
Elsewhere the album gets by with hitting shades of Lou Reed and straight up love song, combined on “Mad Sounds” which maybe lacks the acidic Reed delivery, but you hear it anyway. AM feels dark and hazy and less British punk than anything the band has ever done, and the fact it works so well never ceases to surprise me.