Almost a decade into their career, the Arctic Monkeys have aged gracefully into their precociously world-weary image with a mature album about immaturity, a carefully written and produced effort about the desultory careen of youth. While the band has long since ditched their hoodies, replacing them with vintage Fab Four-style blazers, many of the sonic influences on their fifth album, AM, are American. Drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley’s harmonized pop falsettos back almost every track, acting like a lubricant between Alex Turner’s reverb-laden vocal hooks and Jamie Cook’s dry, rasping riffs. The heavy, molasses-slow rhythms, especially the late-night beats of “One for the Road” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High,” draw on Dr. Dre’s brand of West Coast G-funk, as does Turner’s use of broken rhymes and long, syllable-crammed lines, delivered in his characteristic sneer. The closest the band comes to sampling, though, is when Turner borrows verses from punk-poet John Cooper-Clarke for “I Wanna Be Yours”: “I want to be your vacuum cleaner/Breathing in your dust/I want to be your Ford Cortina/I will never rust.”
Although Arctic Monkeys have relocated to Los Angeles, Turner still delivers his arch lyrics in his trademark Sheffield vernacular (“There’s summat in your teeth,” he sings on “Do I Wanna Know?”), but he’s moved from writing sharply observed, class-inflected vignettes to more broadly sketched lyrics that largely eschew proper nouns for generic pronouns (“Well, are you mine, or just mine tonight?” he asks on “R U Mine?”). Turner’s penchant for boozy and suggestive detail remains, though, as when he describes a girl wrapping “her lips around the Mexican coke” on “Arabella,” a slippery track that starts like David Bowie and ends like Black Sabbath.
Turner’s evocative lyrics and the band’s libidinous energy aside, AM bags a bit around the middle when it revisits the melancholic Britpop of their previous release, Suck It and See, with “No. 1 Party Anthem,” a John Lennon-esque ballad, and “Mad Sounds,” on which Helders and O’Malley deliver maudlin background coos like a couple of R&B hook girls. The Black Keys-style call-and-response blues of “R U Mine?” and the unhinged neo-psychedelia of “Knee Socks,” which features a cameo from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, offer better proof that the band’s borrowing isn’t just imitation, but intoxicating fusion, new musical branches cannily spliced onto the Arctic Monkeys’ own salacious form of rock n’ roll.