***1/2 (out of four)
Even the biggest Arctic Monkeys fans (and I’m a pretty big one) have to admit that each new record from the English rockers requires an adjustment from the listener. None of the group’s albums is a repeat of the last, and each takes a little time to settle.
This was not the case, of course, with the Monkeys’ 2006 debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” whose jagged, adrenaline-fueled hooks and tart lyricism jumped out immediately and have aged terrifically.
On “AM,” singer/guitarist Alex Turner and company blend some of the sexy, psychedelic strut of “Humbug” with the soulfulness of “Suck It and See,” occasionally winding the fuzz around early-career punchiness (like on the echoing “R U Mine?” and relentless groove of “I Want It All”). “Arabella” attacks with Jack White-esque guitars and John Bonham drums, and "Snap Out Of It” uses piano to achieve an irresistibly fun bounce.
Depending on your mood, the album may sound like a refinement of the band’s previous, very successful avenues, focusing strengths into pure consistency. Or, perhaps in the drifting retro vibe of “I Wanna Be Yours” or quieter, ooh-la-la-enhanced “Mad Sounds,” like the group becoming so good at so many things means that restraint can border on sounding half-hearted, and lines like “I want to be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust” only recall better lines from older songs (like pretty much everything from “Cornerstone” and the back half of "Suck It and See").
Yet over seven years and five albums—take a moment to think how much you grew and changed from age 20-27, by the way—Arctic Monkeys have continued to adapt their approach and increase the depth of feeling. They’re confident and capable and still showcasing a sense of humor, only more softly. After all, who but these guys would name a longing ballad, returning to Turner’s favored subjects of moments passing quickly and the folly of forcing something, “No. 1 Party Anthem”?
In concert: Sept. 23 at Riviera Theatre
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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