If you hadn’t heard, Arctic Monkeys officially released the first single from AM today. “Do I Wanna Know?” had hit the web and airwaves a while back, but the release also delivered b-side “2013”. Yes, that is the title.
I don’t even know what to say about it. This is Alex Turner’s first openly direct social commentary as far as I can remember, and I’m just not there with him. Arctic Monkeys b-sides are typically a hit and miss proposition…a lot of those tracks are better than most bands’ actual singles. Some, however, are mediocre at best or even outright bizarre. “2013” shouldn’t have surprised me given Arctic Monkeys track record for experimenting on b-sides, but it certainly did. As a general rule, it’s a good idea for artists not to reference current events, people, or dates because those things change so quickly the song becomes unbelievably dated in a short amount of time. Go back and listen to some old Eminem and check out some of those name drops for an example. Ouch! Arctic Monkeys broke that unwritten rule here, and what seems to be a good idea in the abstract falls apart under the shiny lights of 2013.
Turner references Apple and other current topics with lines such as “on the back of her transmitter there’s a little shiny fruit and it’s coming after you”, as an example of the more direct and modern angle found on this new track. I totally get where they were going, and it’s been fairly well covered that the Sheffield group is a bit internet-averse, but it really smacks me as a half-attempt at some sort of social commentary that would have been so much better dressed up in Turner’s eloquent wordplay and abstract imagery. What really hurts is that I dig the churning, plodding style of the track – particularly Helder’s percussion work which sets up an amazing backbone for everything else going on – a backbone that I feel is kind of wasted by the questionable lyrical direction.
“Do I Wanna Know?” is a great single, and I am well enthused for the album later this year. That said, “2013” will sit in my iTunes folder as a “what-might-have-been” instead of a “fuck-this-is-good”.
Listen for yourself below or pick it up in vinyl here.