Arctic Monkeys have their share of heavy-rock bona fides — Queens of the Stone Age guest spots, overseas Lollapalooza headlining slots, a badass drummer — but some of the British band’s finest songs are their quietest. The Alex Turner-led group can sneer and stomp with the best of them, as songs from the 2006 debut’s “Fake Tales of San Francisco” on through last year’s Record Store Day rager “R U Mine?” more than capably demonstrate. And yet the guys can be just as effective when they take their feet off the pedal: “Cornerstone,” from 2009’s Humbug (co-produced, incidentally, by QOTSA’s Josh Homme), is a vivid, patiently unfurling master class in songcraft. It’s worth revisiting.
From the latter camp comes “Mad Sounds,” which despite its title is a serenely gliding ballad with filigreed guitar work and swaying organs reminiscent of vintage Van Morrison, en route to an ooh-la-la outro recalling the Kinks. As NME points out, Arctic Monkeys performed the song at two different Scandinavian festivals over the weekend. Watch Sunday’s rendition at Denmark’s NorthSide Festival above and Friday’s take from Sweden’s Hultsfred Festival below. Put “Mad Sounds” alongside the band’s other recently debuted song, the muscular, riff-based rocker “Do I Wanna Know?,” and Arctic Monkeys are well on their way to another balanced set. With this band, the tender elegance and the scrappy brawn complement each other.