The first time they headlined Glastonbury, in 2007, Arctic Monkeys struggled to win over the Pyramid Stage crowd, but this year there was no doubt that they nailed it. A large part of their success was down to Alex Turner’s slow transformation into a rock’n’roll star. At first, he was a cocky, spotty Sheffield teenager with a genius for lyrics, shooting his mouth off and sipping lager from a can. By the time of “Humbug” in 2009, he returned from recording in the Mojave desert sporting long hair and a leather jacket, for a tour on which his insouciance soured into sullenness. So the Turner that emerged at Glastonbury—with a quiff, a suit, even an American drawl—marked a fresh start.
Their fifth album, “AM”, is an equally slick and improbably glam affair. It weaves together the disparate strands of Arctic Monkeys’ DNA: Spaghetti Western touches on “Do I Wanna Know”; their mentor Josh Homme’s hacksaw guitars on “R U Mine?”; Richard Hawley’s northern crooning on “No. 1 Party Anthem”; their own early playfulness with falsetto choruses and piano stabs on “Snap Out of It”—a song so impeccably arranged, it could have been written by Elton John. This is the sound of a band who are no longer afraid to run the show. ~ Hazel Sheffield
AM released by Domino in Europe Sept 9th, America and Canada Sept 10th
ROCK AT A GLANCE
Janelle Monáe (album, Sept 9th in Britain, 10th in America). At her best, she evokes Prince and James Brown. She just needs to add some consistency to the charisma.
Peter Gabriel (album, Sept 23rd/24th; European tour, Sept 28th to Oct 25th). The star the charts forgot, but still an innovator. This LP consists of covers of his songs, by acts he covered on his last one—Elbow, Bon Iver et al.
Elvis Costello (album, Sept 16th/17th). After pumping up the hits at Glastonbury, Elvis resumes his quest to work in every genre known to man by flirting with hip-hop. Co-written with the Roots, "Wise Up Ghost" includes a retort to his own Falklands classic "Shipbuilding", seen through Argentine eyes.
Barry Gibb (Britain and Ireland, Sept 21st to Oct 3rd). A solo tour by the Bee Gee who has now lost three brothers. His niece Samantha, daughter of Maurice, keeps the harmonies gleaming.