Every generation has a band which defines it. Ever since The Beatles defied all previous conceptions of what a band could do, there has always been one band that is seen as a perfect encapsulation of the times in which they formed. For our generation, that mantle falls on Arctic Monkeys. Like it or not, no band in recent years has had an impact on pop culture like Arctic Monkeys. You can’t go a week without hearing ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ or ‘R U Mine?’ – we’ll get to these later – on radio, TV, in pubs, clubs, shops, you name it. Yes, the band’s influence has also spawned a slew of terrible, indie-rock dirge that we’ll be subjected to until the oceans rise and carry our carcasses out to sea, but that’s not entirely their fault.
So, how do Arctic Monkeys manage to stay relevant, especially in an age where genres rise and fall faster than Speedy Gonzalez on crack? Simple: they don’t have to. There are a handful of artists in this world that have reached a point where they don’t need to stay relevant, because they could churn out any old slop and you’d still lap it up. Not to turn this into another rant against Beyoncé, but if I recorded an album and started reciting a recipe for lemonade in the middle, you’d rightfully tear me a new one.
Arctic Monkeys reached this point on their third album Humbug. While often regarded as a crucial turning point in the band’s sound, the fact of the matter is that this album is entirely forgettable. The band’s first two albums brimmed with life, and set the scene for a decade’s worth of rip offs. Humbug, meanwhile, is forgettable to the point that I’d completely forgotten it existed. Still, did it harm the band’s career? Did it fuck. Arctic Monkeys managed to put out an album that was completely inconsequential and managed to remain the biggest band in the world. So, what now? Whatever they damn well pleased, that’s what. Suck It and See is arguably even worse than Humbug, save for lead single ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cos I’ve Moved Your Chair’, and 2013’s AM is painfully middle of the road. Now I know what you’re thinking: how can this lunatic say that about an album as omnipresent as AM is? Simple, go back and listen to those first two albums, and then come and tell me that AM isn’t a steaming pile of dog dirt.
As I sit here writing this, there’s still no news on the band’s long awaited sixth album. There’s been rumoured tracklists, titles and guest collaborators, but nothing concrete has come out of the Arctic Monkeys’ camp as of yet. Personally, I feel this is the only time that Arctic Monkeys will struggle to sound relevant. Churning out another AM will have them sticking out like a sore thumb at festivals such as Reading and Leeds, while an attempt to ‘do a Fall Out Boy’ and try to make pop music will merely make them look like old men who don’t understand the world in which they live. But, as I say, you’ll lap it up regardless.
By Fraser Bryce