Tag Archives: Arctic Monkeys

Top Songs of 2013: #9 – “Do I Wanna Know?” by Arctic Monkeys

11 Dec

Arctic Monkeys

Do I Wanna Know? is sexy. It’s every word and reverb-filled guitar strum are trying to seduce you.

Like an artful lover, it never loses control. The whole song is purposefully restrained – teasing, if you will. Rather than blow all their ideas in the first song, Do I Wanna Know is the sound of the Arctic Monkeys inviting you to explore the deeper, darker ideas further within AM. The brooding sound is even more frustrating when you know it’s followed by the powerhouse of rock that is R U Mine?

Been wondering if your heart’s still open and if so what time it shuts,” Alex Turner crones after the first chorus. It’s the sound of an awkward young band from Sheffield grown up and matured. “Simmer down and pucker up…”

Don’t mistake the slang in the title as dumbing down ‘for the kids.’ They’re just feeling comfortable in their own skins. The song is practically seething sexuality, celebrating the early hours of the morning when anything can happen. Lyrics slip like half-formed thoughts or drunken comments from Alex Turner’s lips. Obsession seems to be a perfect muse for him.

Appropriately, the video for this song shows sound waves vibrating into a range of shapes including the form of beautiful women like the beginning of a Bond film. It finally changes into the letters ‘AM.’ They might as well have left their number and a note saying ‘Call me.’

Tune in Friday for #8 on the list.

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Arctic Monkeys Live Review

22 Nov

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(Sheffield Motorpoint Arena, 18th November)

It would have been understandable if the fans inside the Motorpoint Arena had held reservations about what was to come. After all, when the lead singer’s come down with Laryngitis just weeks before, you might be wondering if the gig would be a bit half-arsed, just completing their contact?

They needn’t have worried. From the start, it was clear all of the band were on fine form. The brooding glam rock of their first song, Do I Wanna Know, was almost drowned out by the crowd by cheers and people actually dancing instead of acting as Youtube cameramen.

It was also abundantly clear that the Sheffield band’s most recent album was the focus of the night. A whopping nine songs – almost half of the setlist – were taken from AM. It had been receiving rave reviews from critics and it was clear that the audience adored it just as much. Arabella, I Wanna Be Yours and One For the Road were all greeted by waves a cheering from fans that already knew every word. R U Mine, the last song in their encore, also remains a monster of song – possibly the most perfect one they’ve ever written.

Between the appreciation for the new album, the band managed to find time for a whirlwind tour of their hits. Quite a few songs from the middle period of their career were missed out, but who’s got time when the crowd’s holding a mass-singalong to I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor or swaying their lighters to Mardy Bum?

Even if Arctic Monkeys have already performed that setlist a dozen times before, the gig still felt special. There was a palpable sense of energy throughout, which was reciprocated by the audience.

Alex Turner has a reputation a stoic, restrained frontman, preferring to let his songs talk for him, however he was relatively chatty in Sheffield. Perhaps enjoying being back in his hometown, he seemed relatively chatty, asking the audience ‘Are you mine?’ and playfully telling them off when they began singing too early.

Although they didn’t bring any gimmicks like Muse or U2, Arctic Monkeys put on a hell of a live show. It was technically very proficient. With just some lights, a couple of small screens and a towering AM backdrop, they put on an incredible show where the stage always seemed to reflect the mood.

For some reason, the speakers mangled the sound for a couple of the subtler songs like Fireside, but it handled the louder ones brilliantly. The sound was at the perfect volume that encourages you to sing until your voice is raw.

Simply put, this good a band with such a magnificent back catalogue of songs can’t help but put on a hell of a show. Seven years of touring has made them into a well-oiled machine that knows exactly what crowds want.

AM – Arctic Monkeys Review

18 Sep

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Critically acclaimed debuts can often be a curse for a band. Plenty of bands have combusted under the pressure to repeat it – see the Stone Roses, the Klaxons, the Las and dozens others. However if there was ever a band that argued early success needn’t be a burden, it was the Arctic Monkeys, and AM is the conclusive proof.

As the title suggests, AM is stripped-down, back to basics, but the band have come so far in the last eight years it still sounds like nothing they’ve done before. It’s traditional rock but with a glossy veneer of hubris. Don’t mistake the anachronistic titles for dumbing down – this is just the band feeling comfortable in their own skin.

Gone is almost everything you might associate with their award-winning debut. The jangly indie guitar riffs have been replaced by muscular, R’n’B tinged tunes. The Sheffield quartets have truly embraced American sounds. This is mostly thanks to ‘R U Mine?’, a one-off song they released last year that the band liked so much they continued to mine the sonic space it had unearthed, and it now feels like an integral part of the album.

The social commentary that defined their first album has also mutated into richer lovelorn poetry. One of the highlights comes early in ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ as Alex wonders ‘if your heart’s still open and if so what time it shuts?’ It’s not tied to a specific place or time, but instead evokes many different shades of love, whether it’s drunk, desperate or just dumb.

In ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ Alex even adapts words from poet John Cooper Clarke. The fact they sound like his own shows off his strength not just as a lyricist but as a song writer.

There are almost too many highlights too mention. Album opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ sounds like ‘R U Mine’s’ evil twin, filled with alcohol-induced swagger, while ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When I’m High?’, is one of the funniest songs they’ve ever produced. ‘Number One Party Anthem’ is a huge misnomer; you could more imagine Alex crooning it in a smoky jazz bar. I’ve managed to get the end without mentioning the best song, ‘Abarbella’ with its flickering riffs and vivid desert poetry.

It’s impossible to retrap lightening in a bottle but Arctic Monkeys have managed to make something different and just as good. Purists who are still waiting for more stories about taxi ranks need not listen but everyone else is going to love AM. If Alex Turner has only recently grown into his role as a rockstar, this is the soundtrack to his new life.

Festivals vs. Gigs

9 Aug

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We are now well in the middle of the UK festival season. Glastonbury is now a glorious, beer-soaked memory, V Festival is approaching fast while Leeds & Reading is still a couple of weeks away, marking the symbolic end of the summer. Meanwhile, mini festivals like Y Not and Lee Fest are popping up left, right and centre.

What’s strange is how well it seems to be going. When the recession hit, we were assured that festivals were now a thing of the past thanks to shrinking incomes and soaring ticket prices. Many people saw gigs as the way forward – you get exactly what you pay for and don’t have to stand through dozens of bands you’re not interested in or sleep in a tent that size of a small Alsatian. Yet gigs seem to be the ones that are struggling. Iconic music venues like the 100 Club are regularly faced with closure. So in these money strapped times, I thought I would decide once and for all which are better – gigs or festivals.

Having been to a couple of both, I would say my money is mostly – but not entirely – on gigs. My favourite one was Foo Fighters in 2010, performing in the enormous outdoor National Bowl in Milton Keynes. There was a palpable sense of build up all day. The crowd was very supportive of the warm-up acts, Biffy Clyro and Jimmy Eat World, even if those weren’t the ones they came to see. When Dave Grohl and co. finally arrived, there wasn’t a single person in the 65,000 capacity stadium who wasn’t cheering. But the icing on the cake was the special guests. When John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame and Seasick Steve joined Grohl on stage for the encore, I and many of the people near me nearly lost our voices. What was great was that the audience knew who they were; by attending a Foo Fighters concert, you could almost guarantee they admired idols such as these. I don’t think it would have quite the same effect had Foo Fighters been performing at Glastonbury, which attracts fans of a wide range of genres. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but prevents that same feeling of community.

Festivals, in my experience, are quite different. You spend the whole weekend bouncing from tent to stage and back again in order to catch your favourite bands. This pinballing inevitably means you’re always near the back and barely get chance to enjoy the performance before you’re dragged off by impatient friends somewhere else. Choice can be a curse as well as blessing. No matter what you do, you’re going to miss things you want to see. There’s also the problem of tourist-fans – people who go to see bands just to say they were there, regardless of whether they want to see them. I’m lost count of the amount of times I’ve been wedged against people who are stood motionless, looking as though they’re waiting for an advert on YouTube to finish playing. It kills the mood to say the least.

That isn’t to say that festivals don’t have their place in British music. Despite soaring ticket prices – a standard weekend ticket for Glastonbury costing £216, often being resold for much higher – they are still far and away the best value for money. With plenty of energy drinks, you could see up to twenty bands in the course of a weekend. There’s also the fun of camping with your friends. While a gig can be a great night out, a festival can feel more like a holiday.

Nevertheless, for the truly special moments, I’ve found you have to stick with gigs. When I see Arctic Monkeys in November – an event I’ve been waiting five years for – I know there won’t be any tourist-fans, hangers-on or people who wandered into the wrong tent, just true fans. Call my standoffish, but that seems like the purer musical experience.

Album Preview – AM by Arctic Monkeys

5 Jul

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Sometimes a band just seizes the moment by the scruff of its neck and everyone knows, for better or worse, that it’s theirs. This is one of those times, and Arctic Monkeys are undeniably that band. After opening the Olympics last summer and headlining Glastonbury for the second time, they have built up such momentum that their new album, AM, is going to be a Very Big Event. It may not be out until 9th September, but here are five reasons you should be very excited about it right now.

 

They owned Glastonbury

The Rolling Stones were the most anticipated; the Mumford and Sons had the biggest sing-alongs, but the Arctic Monkeys owned the weekend. From acoustic versions of Mardy Bum to making everyone dance to When the Sun Goes Down, frontman Alex Turner had the crowd in the pocket of his sparkly blazer. They had all of the confidence they lacked the first time around, telling the crowd: “See you next time.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEYo0ea7HF8

They’re one of the most consistent bands about

Every album by the Arctic Monkeys has been very good, despite their constant changes in musical styles. Even Alex Turner’s side projects have been excellent – from the crooning, wistful soundtrack to Submarine to the 60’s-influenced Last Shadow Puppets album. Everything he does comes with a seal of guaranteed quality. The only divisive thing in his back catalogue is their third album Humbug;, which is generally considered a brave experiment that wasn’t wholly successful.

R U Mine? is on there!

Back when R U Mine? was released in the distant past of February 2012, most people assumed it was a one-off single, to keep us content until the next album arrived. Which was fine by us – it contained some their most aggressive musical swagger so far, full of garage rock and cryptic lyrics that Alex specialises in. According to interviews, the band “discovered something in that record we thought was worth exploring”, influencing the rest of the album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJD-HEAHHg8

Josh Homme is involved

The Queens of the Stone Age frontman has been producing brilliant records like clockwork for over 20 years now. He produced the band’s third album and is set to appear on their new one. He is one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation and his influence always helps to push the band in a heavier direction.

Alex has become the rockstar he was always meant to be

Like the main character in a coming of age novel, Alex has matured from an awkward teenager to an indie rock god. With each album and image makeover, his confidence has grown – just witness the suave crooning on Suck it and See. It’s difficult to remember how he once sung about romantic problems with such believability. Now he is rarely seen without a leather jacket, sunglasses and a quiff. The time has never been better to see them live.

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