After Arctic Monkeys’ headline sets at Reading & Leeds Festivals in August 2014, Alex Turner said it "seems like the perfect place to leave things for a while." Sounds like he was telling the truth: almost two years later, in June 2016, he said the band hasn’t started on LP6 at all. Asked if there were any plans for their next album, he said, “There will be at some point. I mean, we’ll see with that. No rush.” Tantalising – but when can we realistically expect the followup to ‘AM’, the biggest-selling vinyl of the decade so far – and what will it sound like? Here’s what we know so far.
When can we expect Arctic Monkeys' sixth album?
There are a few variables that will definitely affect the date, and some that may or may not. The Last Shadow Puppets finish touring at the end of August – "The plan was to end [The Last Shadow Puppets] at the end of the summer, and I think we’ll stick to that,” Turner said in June. Then there’s drummer Matt Helders, who’s touring with Iggy Pop at the moment, and who will have a break from touring for the whole of September before rejoining Iggy in South America in October.
Those two may be itching to get back in the studio in September. Alex Turner recently told Beats 1’s Matt Wilkinson, “I feel bad for not writing for a while. I want to get back on the piano, get back up to writing a song a week.” But he also said something else in the same interview that makes it sound slightly unlikely they’ll start in September, though: he hasn’t thought about making “AM part two” for a while. “I don’t think I have that right now,” he said mysteriously.
If September isn’t when they start recording new music, it could be that they take a break from everything until later in 2016 or early 2017. Either way, we probably won’t see LP6 until the second half of 2017 at the earliest.
What will Arctic Monkeys’ sixth album sound like?
It feels like Turner is getting things out of his system via the sleazy Scott Walker stuff he’s been performing as one half of The Last Shadow Puppets. On the other hand, Matt Helders’ latest work as part of ‘Post Pop Depression’ seems like it will have given him a new perspective. He’s been recording and touring with QOTSA’s Josh Homme and Dean Fertita – and, of course, the legendary Iggy Pop. On that record his drums sound as swaggering and slick as anything he’s done with Arctic Monkeys – hopefully he’ll bring some of that vibe to the next album.
Fans who still hold the band's first two albums close to their hearts are unlikely to hear Alex spouting lyrics as fast as he used to – his style has developed from a snappy yap into more of a smooth croon in recent years. But Nick O’Malley’s bass riffs have been getting heavier recently, and more of that could be on the cards. There could possibly be an injection of psych too: Helders and Turner covered Tame Impala’s ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ a couple of years ago and the influence of Kevin Parker on Arctic Monkeys might make for an interesting bit of cross-pollination.
Who will feature on it?
Longtime collaborator and producer Josh Homme will probably have a hand in at least one of the songs – since 'Humbug' he's been involved with every album. Then there’s Alexandra Savior, Alex Turner’s newest songwriting partner, who could come on board to add some vocals. It’d be a surprise to see Miles Kane there – earlier this year he explained he “had a hard-on” to be a frontman and that was why he’d never joined the band, despite being such good friends with Alex.
Then there’s the possibility Iggy might be convinced to join them for something in the future – and even Andy Nicholson, the former Arctic Monkeys bassist who last July said the door to his Sheffield studio is “always open” if the band want to come and make music there.
What will the music be about?
Hard to say at this point. The last album was about lust, sex, isolation and getting high, so possibly more of that. Here’s one random clue though: Turner’s iPhone notes, which he read out on Josh Homme’s radio show ‘The Alligator Hour’ in July 2015. Turner’s included "It's my headache" and "John Lennon as a TV chef". Make of that what you will.
Are there any unreleased Arctic Monkeys songs that could be on it?
There are several unreleased songs we know about, including ‘Sandtrap’ and ‘Put Me In A Terror Pocket’, but they’re probably both a bit long in the tooth to make it onto a new album.
The only thing that we’ve heard before that could be new material is this clip of what sounds like new stuff from a 2014 soundcheck in Bremen, Germany – but it’s annoyingly short.