Review Summary: "I'm 24 years old, I've got a load of money, what am I gonna do, sit at home and twiddle me thumbs? No. I'm gonna go out and 'ave it."
"Hey, have you heard the new Arctic Monkeys record?"
"Don't. 'Cos nothing could beat the old one."
With only a few days to go before Favourite Worst Nightmare
gets into the hands of millions of drooling teenagers and a few more before it gets onto store shelves, it's a good time to take a look back at what was in fact, the Godzilla of record releases last year. Barry Gibb once said, and this was sometime at the height of his band's career, "We're so overground, we're underground."
From nobody to number one in six months gives the Arctic Monkeys every right to be the over/underground darlings that everyone and Pitchfork have an opinion about.
"Don't believe the hype"
says the piddly little boy that Alex Turner is, before his band launches into a tribute to Lurch... er, Peter Crouch on television. With an average age of what seems like 15 and a few months, the Monkeys have managed to do something very few (and we're talking single digits here) bands in the history of this terribly judgmental world of Rock music that we live in have - be cool
. Evan Eisenberg talks about the cool performer in the context of the observer and the observed. The cool performer, rather than be observed, becomes the observer and it is in this observation that he mocks the listener, who fumbles hesitantly at the meaning or understanding of the performance. While Eisenberg was picky in who he ascribed this particular trait to (John Lennon, Miles Davis), our man (boy) Alex Turner and his Sheffield quartet deliver the goods in the right department.
Their observations aren't particularly astute and neither is their delivery absolutely unique. In fact, it is possibly more derived and 'put-together' than most releases we got last year. But it is exactly this mish-mash of post-Rock punk mannerism that has them standing out. Where Franz Ferdinand are art and The Clash are punk, the Monkeys are somewhere in between. It's ironical given that whatever people say they are is either one extreme or the other.
On the record itself they're catchy as hell from the word go. Witty, often cynical and persistently 'detailed' they execute start/stop hooks and melodies with all the experience of long time players. There's nothing special about Turner's sing-song way. But he is efficient. His economy lends perfectly to the extravagance of Helders drumming and (the 'late') Nicholson's reasonably expressive bass. Tracks like You Probably Couldn't See...
are examples of just how effectively one can execute a 7/10 melody just by throwing in variations of rhythm and bass. It's particularly effective given the production of this record which is relatively raw and does well to complement the teenage crass.
They tell the standard working class family, teenage male tales. Bouncers, bars, girls, it's all been done before but not with such confidence and attitude. It's clear in the distorted chops of Dancing Shoes
and the opening riff of I Bet You Look Good...
What they lack in style they more than make up for in spunk. Not the personality of The Strokes or the exuberance dance-Rock feel of Franz, but a certain romance with something so naively honest, it's no surprise it's often called fake.
The words and music pour out with this genuine panache and pulls the album out of what would otherwise have been well, just above average. Oh come on, we all know that the internet is doing great things for music and The White Stripes, but credit is due here for much more than just the puffery. "Anticipation has a habit to set you up..."
says Turner, and he couldn't be more right. The comparisons and vaguely connected allusions to the hordes of other bands are a given, and though it is almost impossible not to measure, listen to these boys for the merit we forgot to give them as soon as NME's October 2005 cover screamed "What the world's been waiting for."
It's difficult, understandably. But when you're holding on to this time bomb that's exploded right from the time the drums crash in on The View From The Afternoon
, for a bang that lasts 40 minutes, there is a realisation of substance. Sure, they've screwed up and exaggerated on more than one occasion. Perhaps Vampires...
, their run-in with fame, is a little too boyish and didn't quite need the extended drum solo. Their youthful brashness betrays them on Still Take You Home
as well, but it's a wonderful execution that extricates them from what could have been a tricky situation. Eventually, they seal the deal with flamboyant pop madness as the last three songs on the record give the album as fitting an end as it could deserve.
"Americans want grungy people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don't get it. I'm 24 years old, I've got a load of money, what am I gonna do, sit at home and twiddle me thumbs? No. I'm gonna go out and 'ave it.
" Liam Gallagher's typical unabashed observation reveals a dirty truth. Where Oasis were Rock 'n Roll stars in their own right, Arctic Monkeys crash, boom, bang onto a scene that's craving for something that's bigger than anything magazines, blogs, media and politicians can throw up. And with every second band being touted the 'next big thing', these boys stamp their claim on 'now'.