After being enthused by “Do I Wanna Know?” and dismissive of it’s b-side “2013” a couple weeks back, we had an Arctic Monkeys track leak out into the wild and set off a bit of chatter. At a certain point in the promotional appearances for AM, Alex Turner had referenced that his band’s newest LP “sounds like a Dr Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.” I scratched my head when I read it, because it seemed rather strange to be honest. The Sheffield boys fusing their previous two albums worth of desert rock with hip-hop? Could be good, could be bad.
When “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” leaked, it started a lot of folks talking about the band. Folks who had sworn them off since the release of Humbug, folks who never covered them before, and of course the die-hards like me who over-indulge in all things cold primate. Turns out, this leaked single was one of the most ridiculously catchy tracks they’d churned out in years. It feels exactly like it was described: Marshall Mathers LP and Chronic 2001 era Dr. Dre – except with Alex Turner on the vox instead of Eminem. Not only did it pack in an interesting angle on the Arctic Monkey sound by stripping back the smokey, psychedelic guitars and allowing Nick O’Malley and Matt Helders to carry the load, it also featured further progression vocally from Alex Turner with the increased use of R&B style falsetto echoes and callbacks. Nearly completely breaking with the sound of their previous two LP’s, it’s the first time we’ve seen the band go this far into the realm of pop since “Fluorescent Adolescent”.
All this leads me to ask one simple question. No, not “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” Instead my question is “What will it take?” They’ve released four great albums, even if Humbug did cost them some of their earlier fans. They’ve put out music and toured nearly relentlessly for eight years now. Arctic Monkeys have hit the United States multiple times since they burst onto the UK music scene in 2005, playing to an increasing number of us yanks each time they return. Unfortunately, their success in the US on the radio and the charts pales in comparison to how they draw listeners in the UK. What will it take for the Arctic Monkeys to break America? If it’s not this track, then what?
“Why You’d Only Call Me When You’re High?” is tailor made for America with it’s hip-hop inspired backdrop and falsetto croons. The chorus is ringtone ready for a younger generation, with content relationship appropriate for the high school and college age listeners that you need to really hook to burn up the charts. Not only does it appeal to fans of mindless pop, it’s also an incredibly well crafted piece of music that can appeal to the folks whom have tastes a little more…refined, shall we say. Folks like you. This track is earmarked with everything Alex Turner and co. have discovered about American pop culture in their transition to living in Los Angeles, and they have signed, sealed, and delivered it to a populace who should be eager to lap it up.
AM is sounding more and more like an extremely apt title for this collection of tracks, based on the circling narrative of drugs, love, lust, and rejection playing out from single to single. On the non-speculative front, Arctic Monkeys will be releasing “Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You” as the b-side to “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” on September 2nd.
Purchase “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” on iTunes.