Review Summary: Arctic Monkeys prove they are more than just the 'next big thing'.
Love them or hate them. Whether you think they are the saviours of Indie Rock music of just another *** over hyped NME band does not matter, you cannot deny the huge influence they have had on the British music scene over the last 15 months. It can not be seen as surprising then that the 20-or-so year olds have felt a bit pressured when it came to writing a sequel to last year's 'Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not'. Yet here it is, just over a year since the release of their debut and they have done it again but this time with a darker, heavier, wittier feel. They may well have just proved all their critics wrong and released the perfect follow up.
Turner's lyrics are much more varied than on the first album. Ranging from 'Whatever...'s themes of life night and youth boredom to their (somewhat too) modest view of their own popularity to what seems to be Turner's new top theme; romance. However, Turner's lyrics on tackling his own fame seem like he is trying to sound modest out of self-conscious more than anything. Also, having only just left his teens the themes of love and romance seem a bit inexperienced. The lyrics that work best on this album are actually those that use the winning 'Whatever...' formula of ‘lower class’, colloquial, tongue-in-cheek poetry about British culture.
What actually shows Turner's increase in confidence and musical ability is his changed singing style. Rather than leaving his lyrics to be spoken he seems to feel much more confident putting his great singing voice to use. The band's lead singer is not the only member to improve musically with the guitar and drums taking much more inventive and talented routes. Something the band has become very good at is the contrast between the heavy and the quiet which is hugely down to Jamie Cook (rhythm guitar) and Matt Helders (drums). Unfortunately Andy Nicholson's (ex-Bass player) replacement, Nick O'Malley, shows none of the creative and quite forward bass lines that helped make 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'.
'Favourite Worst Nightmare' kicks off in full throttle with the incredibly catchy latest single 'Brianstorm'. The song sets a extremely fast and extremely powerful atmosphere to the song with a much more heavier and almost grunge feel to it. The lyrics begin dripping with irony with 'Brian... Top marks for not trying.'. This is followed by it's slightly slower, partner song 'Teddy Picker'. However, while the music is very similar to that of the first track, the lyrics tackle such themes are poseurs and getting famous that Turner seems to love writing about. 'D is for Dangerous' looks like a potential future single for the Sheffield foursome as it comes off as far more of a Dance track and could soon become a live sing-a-long favourite like ‘When The Sun Goes Down’. The album then seems to evolve and become far more varied ranging from the slow (‘505’), the emotive (‘Do Me A Favour’) to the downright cheeky (‘Fluorescent Adolescent’).
The album seems to hit its peak with Turner’s personal favourite, ‘Do Me a Favour’. The song opens with the lines “Well the morning was complete. There was tears on the steering wheel dripping on the seat” and finishes on the line “Perhaps ‘*** off’, might be too kind” which shows off his ability to blend the emotive with the ironic. Another highlight of the album is ‘Old Yellow Bricks’ which describes the dreamful, lazy youth of Britain today. ‘Balaclava’ also portrays the British youth but in a very different way but rather focusing on the crime and life on the city streets.
Arctic Monkeys have really proved their critics wrong with this one. Not only have they shown that they aren’t one hit wonders, that young stardom hasn’t turned them ignorant, that the pressure won’t get to them but that they really can live up to the hype.
Balaclava, Old Yellow Bricks, 505, Do Me A Favour