Raid your wardrobe for those old fishnets, denim jackets and high waisted shorts. It’s time to light one up for the ten year anniversary of Arctic Monkeys’ most iconic album, 2013’s AM.
A classic record for the Tumblr generation, AM is the fifth studio album in Arctic Monkeys’ discography, and undoubtedly their most acclaimed. Emotionally fueled by a universal desperation for sex and love, AM modernised rock and spoke to the youth in a way the band’s peers had not yet pulled off. Influences from a vast range of acts, from the hip-hop world of Aaliyah and Outkast to the rock landscape of the Velvet Underground and Black Sabbath, the boys accomplished an eclectic sound much darker and more inventive than their previous releases. Just a glimpse of that waveform album cover will take you back to the peak of sad internet music. Moreover, lead singer Alex Turner never let the group forget their roots on AM. A healthy dose of Brit pop and local slang sprinkled throughout the otherwise highly commercially accessible record makes it the perfect evolution from the band who burst onto the scene with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor all the way back in 2005.
Sultry numbers like Knee Socks and Arabella pined after a romanticised fictional woman, dressed in the “cheetah print coat” and “gator skin boots” that would soon become the uniform of bloggers everywhere. The laidback middle section of the album boasted Fireside and Mad Sounds, a one-punch combo tackling the feeling of loneliness amidst a wild 2010s party. And who could forget the closing track I Wanna Be Yours? This spacey adaptation of John Cooper Clarke’s poem of the same name quickly became an alternative staple.
But AM’s most memorable moments are its bombastic singles. Opener Do I Wanna Know? claims fame by its glorious guitar riff, a melody instantly recognisable to the ears of any true rock fan. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? uses its quirky lyrics to tell the deeply relatable story of a relationship on the rocks due to substance abuse. And the explosive R U Mine? runs at breakneck pace, a carnival-style journey from flirtation to something more, coupled with huge drums and slick, seductive vocals. It’s no coincidence this series of commercial releases are all titled after questions, highlighting the deep set uncertainty that bubbles beneath all of AM.
In the wake of AM, the rock genre once gatekept by a male-dominated demographic instead found its way to a fandom of adoring teenage girls, who advocated for fresh takes on the traditional sound. The wavelength album art flooded the internet, from aesthetic websites to playlist covers to outrageously priced Etsy crop tops. Online Monkey-mania was very real. Not only did they pave the way for new bands on the scene to connect with younger audiences, but equally, to earn respect in the crossover pop-rock field. AM’s sonic meld of experimentation and commercialisation received the greatest radio, streaming and chart statistics of Arctic Monkeys’ career. Even better, the music was received with resounding love from critics. AM made the top albums of the year from publications like NME, Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, and even clocked in at No. 346 on Rolling Stone’s list of the best albums of all time.
With nothing but a pack of cigarettes and a dream, Arctic Monkeys undeniably revolutionised rock for the modern age with AM. Now a decade on, with their career still thriving in the wake of their most recent release The Car, it’s well worth returning to AM for another listen, and remembering the moment Arctic Monkeys moved from smalltown band, to alt-rock legends.