I was thinking about reviewing this album as soon as it came out. I'm glad I didn't. It has steadily grown on me over the past few weeks. This probably comes as much from me really wanting to like this and wanting it to be good, but nonetheless it gets better every time I hear it. Whatever People Say I Am… That’s What I'm Not
was always going to be a hard act to follow, but the Sheffield Monkeys have just about settled the argument about whether they are actually that
good. They are.
Whatever People Say I Am
got a lot of people’s knickers in a twist as I'm sure most of you are aware. The hype surrounding the album was enormous. I remember the first time I saw the film clip for "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor
" and I heard Alex Turner introduce himself with "Don’t believe the hype"
. And this was months before
the album had even been released! The Favourite Worst Nightmare
experience has been a much shorter one. The album was announced, we anticipated it, and it came out. Yes the hype in the media has been enormous, but the mere fact that the album has come out only 15 months after its predecessor is one of its greatest strengths. Yes, there was anticipation. Yes, there was hype. Yes, this won’t be the best album of the year and yes, a lot of people are probably disappointed with it. But yes, it is the proof that these guys are - above all else - a witty and evolving Rock and Indie band that know what they’re doing.
Many pundits have suggested that this album is unpolished and hurried. I think that’s almost the point. There wasn’t any pissing about or a pretentious three-year-wait for the album. It’s here - like it or lump it. And the furious opener Brianstorm
kind of sums up this feeling of "let’s get the record out there". But it’s not all brash, ferocious Rock at its Indie best. The blistering Rock of Brianstorm
and This House Is A Circus
coalesces effortlessly with the timid, mellow offerings like 505
and Only Ones Who Know
. The wit and charm of Turner is as conspicuous as ever and the maturity in both the overall sound and approach is unmistakable. The brilliant mix between the dance-infused beats and raw, aggressive Rock manifests itself on Balaclava
- arguably the album-highlight. The jolted, stuttering outro is simply marvellous. Not only does it round off Balaclava
adeptly, it leads in to Fluorescent Adolescent
, only helping to add to the unity of the album. And this second single shows Turner at his lyrically most witty and obnoxious in one that is designed to get the toes tapping. It stands in stark contrast to Brianstorm
, again highlighting the diversity and dynamism of the relatively new sound. I’d say Fluorescent Adolescent
is the When The Sun Goes Down
of the album.
I guess the thing with the Arctic Monkeys is the hype. Apart from anything else, I imagine that just about every Briton, from those in nappies to those in nursing homes, has heard the name "Arctic Monkeys" in the past 12 months. Some people have missed the boat, some are indifferent, and a lot, it seems, are well and truly on the bandwagon. And no doubt the band will draw criticism from a lot of quarters. Not least because they are actually that popular. But I would suggest that when it comes down to the music, they just about live up to it all. They have tried to stay away from the bullshi
t that has followed them like the plague for 18 months, and Brianstorm
was the statement of intent. A brutal and uncompromising opening to the record lets us all know that they haven’t succumbed to their own hype. Many have questioned the lack of a catchy chorus or album-defining hook on the lead-single. My retort? That guitar riff is one of the catchiest of the year. This is genuine fast and hard Rock with all the lyrical prowess expected of Turner. It may not be the dawn of a new era like I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor
was, but then again, "See you later, innovator
It’s hard to know what the masses expected of this record. Why do people actually like Arctic Monkeys? Is it pretty much just because of Alex Turner, or is it the music? For me it’s the whole package, and it’s probably the same for most. But this album is different from the debut in that the guitar work is vicious and demands more of the spotlight, and the band’s sound is generally more impressive and worthy of attention than ever before. The influences are more varied than previously seen with the Monkeys, as the rhythm section fuses together some club-inspired beats and dance-floor hits with genuine Rock. Turner is still unquestionably the focal-point of both the output and the hype but this album is more about Arctic Monkeys than it is about four lads from Sheffield.
There are moments when the calls that the album has been rushed and feels not-quite-finished do hold some weight. For reasons unknown, the dragging-out of songs for a final, unnecessary chorus or outro is used too many times and gets old quickly. More to the point, it takes away the forceful conclusion to some of the songs, like on Brianstorm
which should have ended after the last “See you later, innovator
”. Only Ones Who Know
, while serving its purpose as a slow, reflective ballad, strangely never breaks out in to a heavy chorus or break as it threatens to.
The catchy cries of “You're his favourite worst nightmare
” are the highlight of the flowing Rock track D is for Dangerous
while the closing lines of Teddy Picker
consolidate a strong opening section to the album. (“Assuming that all things are equal, Who’d want to be men of the people, When there’s people like you?
”) The brooding ballad Do Me A Favour
benefits from the thudding-yet-gentle drumming and the gradually-building guitar and bass work. The track comes to almost a complete standstill as Turner’s vocals and lingering guitar chords take the spotlight for a few bars before the band comes back in and builds superbly towards the thrashing break and final chorus. This House Is A Circus
and the brilliantly-witty second verse of The Bad Thing
support the second-half of the album, and much like Whatever People Say I Am… That’s What I’m Not
, the album doesn’t fall away at all and remains solid throughout.
I’m not really going to try to talk about the lyrics or vocal delivery too much. I can’t do them justice. As all Arctics fans know, they are probably the raison d’être of the band’s popularity, and the raison d’why-they-are-better-than-their-contemporaries. The cutting one-liners are sprinkled throughout the album like dandruff throughout Donald Trump’s hair and that Sheffield accent is as fitting an accent as there has ever been for the music it leads. Somewhere between Craig Nicholls from The Vines
and Mike Skinner of The Streets
fame, Turner’s vocal delivery is the distinctive feature of the band, and equally probably their most divisive.
While the soaring heights of Whatever People Say I Am… That’s What I’m Not
haven’t been equalled, Favourite Worst Nightmare
is undeniably a solid follow-up record that has cemented Arctic Monkey’s place in the British consciousness for the next few years at least. But who cares about all that crap when this is actually great, rockin’ music.