On Arctic Monkey's iconic record's tenth birthday year, we rank the tracks on 'AM' from worst to best.
Can you believe AM is now ten years old? Nah me neither.
A decade is such a long, long time in the music world, yet Arctic Monkeys famous fifth record is as fawned over today as it was all those years ago. Certainly the reference point so many music fans demand the Sheffield band return to anytime there’s a hint of incoming new music!
Back in 2013, Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley poured on their leather jackets, slicked back their Teddy boy quiffs and delivered a collection of tracks which mixed ‘60s doo-wop, heavy rock and smooth indie grooves to stunning effect. There’s even a big Dr Dre influence.
Arctic Monkeys are soon to embark on their first UK tour in almost five years, so we thought it’d be fun to rank AM’s songs in order of worst to best on the record’s big birthday year. Prepare for shock, anger and, erm, agreement…
12. I Want It All
The unwanted last place on the list. As ground breaking a record AM is and was, it also gave us one of Arctic Monkeys most forgettable album tracks. ‘I Want It All’ sounds like a filler track on a later Oasis album release - yes, that’s how weak we’re talking!
Ok, so the Rolling Stones reference within the song’s bridge is pretty cool and earns the song a smidgen of credibility: “Leave me listenin’ to The Stones / 2000 Light Years From Home”. Then it all goes downhill. A perfectly cool guitar solo is ruined by Alex Turner’s “shoo-wops” and an uninspired repetition of the song title itself. Ugh.
11. Snap Out Of It
Now for some controversy… This has to be one of Arctic Monkeys most overplayed tracks and honestly I can’t stand it. ‘Snap Out Of It’ just comes across as if the Sheffield band were cynically producing music to fit onto Radio 1 and Radio X playlists. Surely I can’t be the only one to see through it?!
The whole thing is too much to bear, especially the corny and sickly chorus which surely can’t be enjoyed by anyone still in love with their debut album Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not: “I wanna grab your shoulders and shake, baby / Snap out of it!”. Nah, not for me. Cringe cringe cringe.
Simply an excuse for Alex Turner to shake his booty against the mic and passionately gaze towards his adoring audience. I’m sorry, but it does nothing for me but cause a will to hit the skip button!
10. Mad Sounds
To be honest, the reason this one is so lowly placed is because it follows another slow-tempo track (see below). And because I used to religiously listen to this album in strict order, one slower-paced track was enough for my youthful brain to entertain.
In isolation ‘Mad Sounds’ is a nice little number. Alex Turner’s theory that the “mad sounds” of music can make you forget your problems and “bring you back to life” is kinda cute. As is the singalong chorus.
It’s just there’s too many “ooh la la la’s” in the song’s final third. Those words are supposed to cheer us up…it, in fact, does the opposite for me and instead causes the tune to become wearing.
9. No 1 Party Anthem
Like ‘Mad Sounds’, this one has us taking a break from the album’s ferocious opening for a lighters in the air mid-album delight. On the ballad ‘No 1 Party Anthem’, a party attending Alex Turner describes how he’s waiting to hear the right tune before making his move on a girl he fancies - a topic, by now, you might’ve guessed is covered a fair bit on AM…
The Arctic Monkeys frontman sets the scene so well, hanging about in his “leather jacket, collar popped like (Eric) Cantona”. In a state of drunkenness, he practices his best chat up lines in his mind: “May suggest there's somewhere from which I might know her / Just to get the ball to roll”.
By the end, Turner gets rejected but remains undeterred. A fun journey through what we can imagine used to be a typical Alex Turner party experience (nowadays I reckon the idea of such a party would repulse him and he’d rather spend his Saturday nights enjoying a Stanley Kubrick movie marathon…).
8. One For The Road
I think this is a slightly underrated Arctic Monkeys track to be honest. The band even managed to get none other than Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age fame to deliver backing vocals - which surely ups the song’s cool appeal by some distance, right?!
However, I reckon its drummer Matt Helders who steals the show: he’s given his place in the sun with a series of eerie “One for the road, ooh-ooh” vocals throughout to carry the song along. ‘One for the Road’ is both stylish and ominous. The darkest tune on AM which more than holds its place on the record after such an iconic beginning (‘One For The Road’ has the thankless task of following ‘Do I Wanna Know’ and ‘R U Mine?’).
7. I Wanna Be Yours
Smooth, sexy and with a touch of groove, AM’s final track ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ has Alex Turner lay bare his lust filled desire in the most unconventional manner. The frontman uses a host of mundane metaphors to get his point across: “I wanna be your vacuum cleaner / Breathing in your dust / I wanna be your Ford Cortina / I will never rust”. This is absolute golden stuff from Arctic Monkeys.
The album closer is a reworking of a poem by Manchester punk-poet John Cooper Clarke. Turner takes the comedic original and turns into a slow jam love song, his yearning for a romantic partner spelt out one final time. The perfect way to end Arctic Monkeys era-defining record.
AM’s fourth track is one of Arctic Monkeys most interesting tracks, fusing ‘90s hip hop beats and R&B with ‘70’s rock. Similarities are often drawn with the pre-chorus riff of ‘War Pigs’ by Black Sabbath – Arctic Monkeys even play the iconic 1970 riff during live performances to give Alex Turner enough time to prepare for his guitar solo!
Oh and how about those lyrics? Alex Turner craves for a girl named Arabella through a series of slick and stylish lines: “Arabella's got some interstellar-gator skin boots / And a Helter Skelter 'round her little finger and I ride it endlessly / She's got a Barbarella silver swimsuit…”.
Even if we’re unsure what he’s actually babbling on about, the Arctic Monkeys frontman just sounds so effortlessly cool, am I right? The Sheffield band have never rocked so hard whilst still maintaining their groove. This definitely feels like a rare feat for any band these days.
Now time for a curveball. ‘Fireside’ is probably the least spoken about AM track, yet it sounds so different to everything else on the record. Where Alex Turner is a hopeful romantic for the most part on this album, here he reflects on a failed relationship with unexpected emotion (rumoured to about his ex-girlfriend Alexa Chung…).
The use of acoustic guitars on this indie pop ballad sound radical within the context of AM and how good is Nick O’Maley’s funky bassline here? There’s even a keyboard solo just before Jamie Cook’s otherworldly solo kicks in. “I can’t explain but I wanna try…” admits Turner within ‘Fireside’s’ opening line and what follows is a heartfelt effort, arguably going down as the most unique song on AM.
4. R U Mine?
Released over a year before AM, with a physical release for Record Store Day on 21st April 2012, ‘R U Mine’ was noticeably an improvement on anything else released on Arctic Monkeys fourth album Suck It and See (2011). Right, so some eyebrows were raised upon its inclusion on AM due to the song coming out a year and a half earlier. But it would’ve been a crime for them to have kept it as just a single release. As epic a tune as they would ever produce.
On ‘R U Mine’, Alex Turner admits to being inspired by Drake in how he structured his lyrics, talking about something backwards before the big reveal (for example, the opening line “I'm a puppet on a string / Tracy Island…”). As for the music? In your face, swaggering and rocking HAAARD: today you can’t imagine any other song closing an Arctic Monkeys live performance.
3. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
The second preview single had us even more excited for AM’s release a few weeks before the album reared its beautiful face. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ fuses indie rock with a funky Dr Dre beat. The subject matter? A simple tale of drunk booty calling, of course.
WYOCWYH is sung from the perspective of both the intoxicated caller and the ignoring girl who doesn’t want to answer his desires. This in turn creates a whole load of intrigue. For those beginning to doubt if Arctic Monkeys were still a band with pop appeal, this was the one track to win them over.
And where Alex Turner’s lyrics had become harder to decipher in the past couple of albums, AM’s ninth track was a night out story many young people could relate to. The music video saw the leather-clad boys doing tequila shots on a night out and a hallucinating Alex Turner stumbling across the streets of London. From the music video to the lyrics, everything about the song is so much fun!
2. Knee Socks
‘Knee Socks’ slaps hard live. Definitely up there with the most festival anthem ready on the record. That Dr Dre-inspired drum and bass combination, sexy lyrics and delicious guitar riff pull together to create melodrama on AM’s penultimate song. You may call it a controversial pick, but I honestly think ‘Knee Socks’ walks into Arctic Monkeys top ten songs list (granted that is definitely an argument for another day…).
“When you walked around your house wearin' my sky blue Lacoste / And your knee socks” vividly recalls Turner of a previous flame within the chorus (again, rumoured to be Alexa Chung…). Then the bridge comes around. As if this part isn’t cool enough that Turner’s singing about riding Motorcycles and referencing Scorcese films (“Like the beginning of Mean Streets you could be my baby”), we’re joined again by Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme for backing vocal duties. An underappreciated banger.
1. Do I Wanna Know?
It was hardly gonna be anything else now was it?! AM’s stomping lead single oozes sex appeal and sleaze through its big, fat dirty riff and Nick O’Malley’s high pitched backing vocals. The song’s first play on Zane Lowe’s nightly Radio 1 show in June 2013 felt like an event in itself. A week later it’d open up their infamous second headline set at Glastonbury Festival to hair-raising effect.
Alex Turner’s lyricism flows better on this era-defining track than anything else he’d done before. Even to this day, I can’t help but sing along with precision: “So have you got the guts? / Been wonderin' if your heart's still open / And if so, I wanna know what time it shuts / Simmer down an' pucker up”. So tasty, so romantic.
And who can forget that iconic sound wave animation music video? With the video receiving 1.4 billion (yes you read that right, 1.4 billion) views on YouTube to go with the billion plus Spotify streams, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ gave Arctic Monkeys a new signature song a decade into their existence. The one to get the show started and the hips shuffling in preparation for the ensuing chaos.