- Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’
It all started with those drums. We don’t just mean the languid stomp of opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ or the showy solo at the start of ‘R U Mine?’. No – we mean the way that as soon as you heard ‘AM’ erupt out of your speakers for the first time it was clear that from now on the Arctic Monkeys were moving to a different beat.
They were thieves, of course, but they were good at it. The band cheerfully admitted to nicking a few ideas from the likes of Dr Dre, Outkast and Aaliyah, but what was really remarkable was the sheer range and scope of their rampant looting. They stole from hip hop, glam, Motown, rock’n’roll, R&B and even doo-wop with equal ease and evident delight. They picked Phil Spector’s pockets and mugged John Lennon. They lifted that “Mad sounds/In your ears” bit from a song by their early producer Alan Smyth. For the finale, they just straight-out plagiarised a John Cooper Clarke poem. Somebody should have called the police.
This disparate collection of pilfered genres and stolen sounds came together seamlessly with Turner’s too-clever-by-half lyrics about love, lust and the grey area in-between. It’s still hard to get over the elegantly sketched scene in the car in ‘Arabella’, which ends with the phenomenal line: “The horizon tries but it’s just not as kind on the eyes.” The man can chirpse. He had us at: “I’m sorry to interrupt/It’s just I’m constantly on the cusp/Of trying to kiss you.” But ‘AM’ was about so much more than just chat-up lines. What about the lovely, melancholy double meaning of: “Leave me listening to the Stones/2000 Light Years From Home”? The writing is sharply-observed, sometimes self-lacerating and often laugh-out-loud funny. There were a lot of great albums released in the 2010s but only one of them features prominent lyrical references to both Mean Streets and Thunderbirds.
What it all amounted to was as good a portrait of what it was like to be staying out too late and getting into trouble in the 2010s as anyone wrote in any medium, with the added bonus that it was also really fun to dance to. That meant it connected with people. It sold more copies than One Direction’s ‘Up All Night’. It became the soundtrack for countless nights out, hook-ups and comedowns in every town and city of this country. It was the album of the decade.