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Arctic Monkeys

Arctic MonkeysArctic Monkeys release their fifth album, AM, this Friday September 6. CHLOE PAPAS checks in with guitarist, Jamie Cook.

The Arctic Monkeys rocketed to the top of the world’s musical agenda in 2005 as very young and equally brash lads from Sheffield singing about somebody looking good on the dance floor.

Seven years and four albums later, they’re a little more mature and a lot slicker, and are about to release their fifth LP, AM.

“I’m over the moon, really excited about it,” guitarist Jamie Cook enthuses to X-Press in that unmistakable Northerner accent, affable and ever so slightly uncomfortable at being the subject of questioning.  “We’re really chuffed about how it’s all turned out, and we can’t wait for it to come out, really for everyone to hear it.”

The band began writing in September of 2012, and recording was wrapped up a fair while before the middle of this year – a time period that Cook says was, “really, really long – well, for us.”

The album is entitled AM as a sly nod to the Velvet Underground’s VU and perhaps the first thing that fans will notice about it – something that has been alluded to through the three singles already released – is that it has a funky, disco undercurrent running through it. Almost every track alludes to it – whether it be a subtle up-tempo beat or not-so-subtle vocal shoo-wops.

To put it simply, a listen through of AM lends to visions of awkward indie kids shuffling under a disco ball, wondering which way to sway.

“We definitely took a step away from the last one,” says Cook referring to 2011’s Suck It And See. “Every time we do a record, we try to mix it up a little bit from what the last one was. When the rumours first started flying about the new album, reports stated that it would be a heavier record than the fairly moderate Suck It And See, and Alex Turner himself even confirmed that it was the direction they were moving towards.

But, things changed when the foursome got down to the nitty gritty. “When we first started, a few of the songs were a lot more guitar-rock sounding, and I think then we suddenly came up with Do I Wanna Know. It was the first one of those songs that just kind of worked all the way through, and even when we did it we were like, ‘Can we get away with this?’” Cook laughs. “But it still sounded massive, and then all of the rest of the songs followed suit.”

That’s the point of difference between the Arctic Monkeys’ brand of sexy dance rock and that of other artists – no matter what genre they delve into, the Arctic Monkeys always manage to create tunes that are big and unforgettable. AM is chock-full of earworms, not least of all a track entitled Knee Socks, featuring the inimitable Josh Homme.

The relationship between Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age and the Arctic Monkeys is a beautiful one; he has featured on and produced songs for the band over the past few albums, and they all seem to be great rock’n’roll pals. Homme recently riffed to the media that AM is a “sexy, after-midnight record,” a delightfully accurate four-word review.

Knee Socks truly knocks any other collaboration between the two out of the park, and will surely be a contender for fan favourite tune on AM. Cook says of the song and working with Homme: “He’s a good friend of ours and he wanted to come down to the studio one night and say hello – not to do anything, just to have a listen, really.

“Then a few tequila shots later he was in the vocal booth doing an amazing part on the record. So it’s nice when that kind of thing happens.” The song features impressive falsetto vocals, which Cook laments will be “funny” to attempt to recreate for live shows.

The LP is littered with collaborations, featuring some guitar magic from the legendary Bill Ryder-Jones (The Coral), which Cook confirms was “so, so amazing,” and rhythm lessons from drummer Pete Thomas, of revered Elvis Costello fame. It also features words from punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, on I Wanna Be Yours. Crooner Alex Turner used Clarke’s poem almost word for word, a text that he studied in high school, only tweaking a few words to ensure it flowed.

Though the dancey vibe is evident, there’s nothing boring about the record, and the influences nodded to are diverse. “We always sit around and reference stuff, we’ve always done that. Even if it’s just a drum sound or even if it’s just the tambourine part, you know,” says Cook of the band’s writing process.

“I know some bands hate that stuff and just want to be in their own world, but I think for us we’ve always played each other stuff when we’ve been recording for inspiration – for ideas and stuff.” Cook struggles to remember specific artists that the band turned to while recording AM, but mentions that they listened to a lot more R&B than usual, namedropping Aaliyah.

Arctic Monkeys have spent the months following their studio wrap-up hitting the festival Europe and the UK, and Cook says that although they love festival season, they’re itching to get on the road for their own tour with AM.

“We can’t wait to really get stuck into the new album and play a lot more, but with the festivals it’s not your crowd really, so you can’t go out and expect everyone to listen to your new songs,” says Cook. “We can’t wait to get out there and start playing them.”

So, what do the Arctic Monkeys want listeners to get from AM? “I just want people to have a good time, really. As long as you can dance to it, that’s good enough for me,” he chuckles. “That’s what I do when I listen to music – it just takes me somewhere else, and that’s a good thing, I suppose.”

As of yet, there’s no confirmation of Australian festival appearances or tour dates from the Arctic Monkeys. But, Cook tells X-Press that they’re likely to hit our shores sometime next year. “Any excuse to come there, and we’ll be there. I don’t know when, but we’ll definitely be there, don’t worry!”

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