DO THE ARCTIC MONKEYS REALLY NEED TO PRODUCE ANOTHER ALBUM?
From the thrashing “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor” to the hair gelled and suave “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High,” the Arctic Monkeys have banged across genres and hairstyles over their 10-year career. In anticipation of a new album of 2018, I’ve been streaming their music nonstop on Spotify – and thinking about their musical direction after a five-year hiatus. Alex Turner was busy kicking it up with Miles Kane and drummer Matt Helders was rolling with a shirtless Iggy Pop, the brand “Arctic Monkeys” a backseat to their solo ambitions. I expected them to never record an album again; after all, Alex Turner just turned 32 (which is ancient compared to his pasty punk look of 17).
However, the Arctic Monkeys are the same strain as barrel bourbons, silver foxes on tele, and specialty Pecorino cheese: they get more sophisticated and attractive with age. It’s not the appeal of the Arctic Monkeys I’m questioning; they could bang out another ten albums and still be famous. I’m wondering whether they needanother album and what direction the new one will take, considering that A.M. (their latest album from 2013) was a masterpiece. It’s Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s The School of Athens all over again: once the artist reaches a zenith, it’s hard to surpass it. A.M. was loaded with such maturity, darkness, and fine style– the height for a band like the Monkeys – that I doubt their 2018 album will compare. I sound pessimistic, but I’m talking about the evolution of their sound through the years, from reckless punk to pop ballads to stoner riffs.
Their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, is 13 songs of British angst, angry girlfriends, and smoked-out nightclubs. Raw and emotional, it’s the anthem for teens that can’t keep it in their pants or wear shoes other than Doc Martens. I not a massive fan of the album, the sound coarse and unoiled compared to their later tunes (the same goes for the albums Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug).
Their guitars soften and lyrics captivate with Suck It And See, their 2011 album that ditched the pissed-off drums for “the type of kisses where teeth collide” (Reckless Serenade). The band matured in increments, which was evident in the unusual lyricism present in their music. For example, “I poured my aching heart into a pop song, I couldn't get the hang of poetry…” resembles a lovesick accountant rather than a cocaine-stuffed rockstar. It was sweet and forlorn, Alex Turner’s age evident inside his words and drawl.
And then A.M., their collection of “dark rock” that closed the curtains on bubblegum pop or songs about club hookups, dropped. The guitars sound jaded – the voice tinged with black – and it’s hard to imagine the Arctic Monkeys’ future album when A.M. was already on the edge of a cliff. Their talent was on their tiptoes, at the apex, and it’s difficult to predict a new sound after the freefall. The Monkeys could dissolve today, and I don’t think fans would be dissatisfied or left wanting a grander, more developed album. The Monkeys could’ve nailed their coffin closed with A.M., but they’re opening it for new music. Will it resemble their early days or will it be an extension of the marijuana haze of A.M.? Will it be a collection of tunes about “P.M.” activities like cookouts and movie theaters? I can’t predict Alex Turner’s lyricism, but I trust he’ll pen something great (although he really doesn’t need to).
Continuing their love affair with Alex Turner, NME (a British music magazine) recently announced upcoming Artic Monkeys tours and began the article with a bolded “It's finally happening” and a “thank the fuck the Arctic Monkeys are back” caption. While I share their enthusiasm, I’m not putting all my eggs into the “Arctic Monkeys Can Do No Wrong” basket. Taking time off for solo gigs also affects the quality of a band – just look at The Beatles or One Direction. Fans have had no information on new sounds or direction in five years – it’s almost easier to reminisce about former grandeur than accept the possibility their new album will be shite. 2018 will be rocked with new music by Lana Del Ray, Vampire Weekend, The 1975, and Arctic Monkeys - but whether it will be shattered is a completely different question.