Their rise to fame has been slow and steady but this year promises something new. 2013 has seen the release of arguably their best album yet and with a casual Pyramid Stage headline slot under their belt, it’s time to look at your friends and ours, Arctic Monkeys.
The Sheffield lads came together in 2002 and began recording demos soon after, collating them and donating the cd (named by fans as Under the Boardwalk in honour of the club it was originally received in) at gigs. Like so many artists nowadays, the Monkeys received online acclaim and eventually released their first single through their own label. Their reputation proceeded them and after reams of iTunes downloads, huge crowds arrived to watch their early Reading and Leeds performances leading to a contract deal with Domino. Their grubby indie-rock post-punk sound was met with a refreshing sense of appreciation and they retain a very similar, but gradually maturing, vibe even now.
With the first two singles lifted from their 2006 #1 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, also reaching number one, the album became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history. Quite the start, I know. Swiftly after, the band released Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?, a crude five track EP which was met with mixed reviews and less airplay due to its bad language but was supported by the band and fans who disagreed with the proposed money grabbing concept. WPSIA,TWIN bagged the Monkeys their first award of many to come, the much coveted Mercury Prize and acted as motivation for the release of their follow up album, 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare.
Their second album was dubbed “very fast and very fun” and garnered a similar reception to their previous music, offering them another number one single and album. With endless rewards being thrown at them, the boys headlined Glastonbury 2007 and toured profusely. Their live show was one full of energy and mayhem, a perfect combination for your average festival goer. After a worrying hiatus, with lead man Turner recording for a side project, the band reformed to record with Josh Homme and released Humbug mid 2009 which, as expected, reached #1 immediately. Although the singles did not replicate past successes, the album and its new approach to complex song writing were loved by all and evolved into a world tour and headlining slots at Reading and Leeds.
This is where I lost track of our favourite Northerners. The band flew about on the wings of fame and success, away from their native land to record new tracks somewhere in America. They promised a more accessible sound on new album Suck It And See (!) which was streamed in its entirety before being released in June 2011. With the music industry warping and changing, the singles lifted from this album again failed to impress but the album inevitably topped the charts, ensuring Arctic Monkeys were the second band ever to have four albums debut at #1. Well deserved. The fellas toured from May 2011 until March 2012, headlining festivals such as Oxegen, V and T in the Park, as well as completing another world tour in support of SIAS.
2012 saw Arctic Monkeys debut new material, open the Summer Olympics and begin recording their new album. It was a fairly quiet year in comparison to their hectic past but evidently it was all leading up to a big 2013. Let’s have a look and see.
2013 & Their Survival:
Laying down the law early, I am so chuffed the world didn’t end – and these boys have a lot to do with it. This year has been more than kind to the band. Arctic Monkeys played new songs from their upcoming album during American tours and headlining several (hundred thousand) festivals across Europe. Circa June this year, the band revealed that AM, their fifth effort as a group, would be released September time and was recorded in California alongside Josh Homme and others. Paired with this revelation was the promise of an 8 date UK arena tour, bringing the boys to their home soil.
June 28th went down in history as the band headlined Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and the following month the guys continued their domination with headlining slots at several other gargantuan European festivals. “Do I Wanna Know?” was released in August and became the bands first top ten hit since 2007, indicating a warm reception to their new material. September came before we knew it, and with the turbulent month, came the astonishing new album which is equipped with enough charisma, personality and passion to impress old fans and entice new ones. Of course, the album reached #1 and Arctic Monkeys proudly hold the crowd as the only independent band to achieve five #1 albums. Now, let’s get down to business.
This album is fantastic. I could end the article here, telling you how excited I am that this band still offer such creativity and individuality without losing any sense of self. But I want you to “get” this album like I do. It’s a record which everybody and nobody has listened to; one that your friend tells you to buy but you probably won’t get around to it. You’ll give the singles a blast and then never dedicate. I urge you, get around to it. Having openly enjoyed most of what this band have offered previously, I was sceptical about this work – how could they continue to make exciting, interesting, different and memorable music after four hit albums? They’ve cracked the code and their formula to success is this: don’t fuck about.
So many artists this year are all about the press: the controversy, the social media, breaking records and causing a scene (I’m looking right into your foam fingered soul, Miley). Arctic Monkeys have never been about that. They’ve not forced fans to watch videos or unlock new music, they get by with less than 600k followers on Twitter and they aren’t motivated by figures and sales. Once their new material is ready, they release it. They are about the music and that’s been apparent since day one. Early reviews commented on the lack of marketing and advertising unaffecting their success and recognition: support from true fans of their music has undoubtedly benefited the boys.
AM boasts their token tone but with new influences taken from a world of other places – wirey American desert guitars, hip hop elements and slithers of r’n’b. Turner even states that Outkast and Aaliyah acted an inspirations for this album, alongisde Black Sabbath. The often psychedelic moments add a sense of magic and mystery the recordings, whilst the brash tones of their angry guitars bring you back down to earth almost immediately. That’s the magic of Arctic Monkeys: their effortlessness.
The production is deeper and more contrived than previous albums: hand claps and foot stamps were revealed to be computer created and contributor Josh Homme dubbed it a “modern, dancefloor sexy record” – something we here at Vada are totally okay with, just fyi. The band have never been tied down to one genre; their exploration of rock and indie has been evident on every record they have released, something which keeps fans loyal but interested. Turner’s tales of heartbreak and life are expertly crafted, with lyrics and melodies merging together to form a wholesome, encapsulating, frankly unforgettable, song.
AM is a near perfect album from a near perfect band: the consistent quality of music that Arctic Monkeys create is borderline unbelievable. Genuinely questioning whether this band have sold their four souls to Satan in return for eternal success, good looks, genius and longevity. Either way, they continually offer up some of the best rock/indie music that the UK has to offer and don’t stand to sacrifice anything along the way. Except perhaps virgins if Satan really is behind all of this.
2013 has seen me fall back in love with Turner and co, especially with their no holds barred, no fucks given attitude towards anything non musical. September saw not only the release of new music but also their third Mercury Prize nomination. Arctic Monkeys are not abating but, after AM, we wouldn’t want them to. With their best album already out for the world to hear, what happens next? Something tells me the boys have another ace up their sleeve and their not quite done making perfect music just yet – album six has already got me excited. Time for some advice from the 80s then, guys? The only way is up.