It's been almost a decade since the Arctic Monkeys torpedoed out of Sheffield, England, riding a bunch of sharp pub-punk songs and the kind of ravenous U.K. media hype that often fades like a hangover. But the Monkeys keep on evolving. Recorded in their new hometown of L.A., with buddies like Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas pitching in, their fifth LP is this quintessentially English retro-rock band's most American-sounding record, especially rhythmically. Black Keys-style garage quiver, dry guitar grind and haunted falsetto-soul backing vocals give cuts like the Mean Streets-referencing "Knee Socks" a cagey noir creep.
Singer-guitarist Alex Turner does a delicate Velvet Underground lullaby ("Mad Sounds") and straight love-soldier crooning ("I Wanna Be Yours," where he promises devotion "at least as deep as the Pacific Ocean"). And he remains an awesomely caustic chronicler of booze-gorged late-night affliction; on the hard-boiled glam processional "No. 1 Party Anthem," the bar looks like a crime scene ("Lights in the floor and sweat on the walls . . . call off the search for your soul"), and on "Do I Wanna Know?," AM's molasses-stomp opener, he's the worst kind of repeat offender: "Crawlin' back to you/Ever thought of calling when you've had a few?/'Cause I always do." Wonder how that's gonna work out.