Well the hype machine sure is a bitch, huh? I hate to begin an Arctic Monkeys review while referencing such a thing, (because let's face it, it isn’t very original), but considering my experiences with the band, I suppose it's relevant. I first heard of the band some time last year when a friend of mine began raving about a great new rock band from Britain, and though I did make a rather weak effort to check them out, I never actually ended up hearing any of their music. But I did find out that they were allegedly not only one of the best bands to turn up in last little while, but also the saviours of rock n roll or something like that. Yeah, I didn’t really buy into it at all and avoided the Arctic Monkeys debut album, What Ever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not all together, mostly due to the hype and the inevitable disappointment I would likely face by listening to it. A year later I still haven't gotten around to trying it out (though more out of laziness). However I have caved in and gave the band's newest album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, a shot, and while it doesn't establish Arctic Monkeys as the premier rock act in the world, it's still worth listening to.
While a lot of the talk surrounding the Sheffield act is rather silly, it isn't difficult to see the band's appeal. The music found throughout Favourite Worst Nightmare is full of catchy hooks which draw the listener in almost right away. Lead single, Brianstorm displays Arctic Monkeys' pop sensibilities rather effectively with its fast-paced, energetic garage rock riffs, a brief, yet concise runtime, lyrical wit, and frontman Alex Turner's distinct vocal effort. Indeed, such a formula is repeated throughout the album several times, and rather successfully at that, producing some of Favourite Worst Nightmare's strongest tracks. After Brianstorm, the likes of Balaclava is perhaps the most memorable track of said mould. The aggressive post-punkish guitar lines along with electronic dance beats once again produce a sound accessible enough for casual listeners and at the same time, heavy enough for more, er, devoted fans of rock especially considering how well the music compliments the track's action packed lyrics.
However, the Arctic Monkeys do not limit themselves to the fast paced rock which makes up much of the beginning of the record. Songs such as Only One Who Knows and 505 are of the slower, jazzier variety. Yet just as with the louder, more energetic offerings the Arctic Monkeys manage to craft a listenable, infectious piece of writing out of their experimentations. That the album's closer, 505, contains one of Favourite Worst Nightmare's more memorable melodies is a testament to the band's (well, okay, Turner's) song writing, which manages to vary itself enough to keep the listener interested. Interestingly enough, it is in these tracks (particularly, again, 505) that the Sheffield rockers are at their tightest and most cohesive. While Alex Turner's singing does indeed lead the way, it does not exert its dominance over the songs in a way which the guitars do in Brianstorm or Turner's vocal efforts do in Balaclava. In laymen's terms, the slower tracks are more of a group effort, and while not particularly as catchy as their counterparts.
Nobody needs to be told that the Arctic Monkeys aren't the saviours of rock (indie or not). So I won't (directly) point that out. But despite the rather immense expectations propped onto the young Sheffield band, they've managed to succeed in serving up a platter of brief, yet infectious rock. Be it through aggressive garage rock passages, dance influenced verses, Turner's undeniable vocal and lyrical charm, or perhaps the group's performance as a whole, Favourite Worst Nightmare is a great album, and quite fun to listen to as well. The Monkey's sophomore effort won't be the best album of the year, and certainly not the new fifth greatest British album of all time like its predecessor apparently is according to a certain magazine. But it is a record worth checking out if you're a fan of (as gathered from my sources) the band's debut offering or simply just well conceived rock with a pop flare. But as young Turner so eloquently puts it: "Don't believe the hype." It's fairly good advice, to be quite honest.