Arctic Monkeys, "AM" (Domino)
A woozy, psychedelic collection cooked up in the California desert, Arctic Monkeys' latest album, "AM," is the sound of Sheffield via San Francisco.
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Fans expecting anything approaching the kinetic, snot-punk blast of the English group's highly revered 2006 debut, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not," will be disappointed as frontman Alex Turner and cohorts rarely break a sweat -- strutting and swaggering their way through 12 tasty rock nuggets.
Turner cites Aaliyah and Black Sabbath as album influences and, when the R&B backing vocals of "One for the Road" give way to a punishing guitar solo from Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, a potentially unholy marriage makes perfect sense. Other highlights include the crunching "Arabella" (complete with riff borrowed from Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love"), glam-rock stomp "Snap Out of It" and starlit ballad "Mad Sounds" -- sonically one of the most beautiful songs in the band's impressive canon.
The album's harmonic strengths are occasionally undermined by repetitive, perfunctory lyrics. Turner recounts tales of parties and wild nights with such disinterest that one can't help but wonder why he bothered going out in the first place. For a man capable of writing vivid vignettes about working-class Britain, the album is startlingly short of quotable lines. The album's most memorable couplet -- "I wanna be your vacuum cleaner, breathing in your dust, I wanna be your Ford Cortina, I will never rust" -- from "I Wanna Be Yours" was penned by punk poet John Cooper Clarke.
Despite the lyrical letdown, there's a lot to admire about Arctic Monkeys' fifth album, the band's self-professed "West Coast record." The sunshine obviously suits them.