Review Summary: An easy package of everything you love and hate about an album.
I wasn't sure what to think when I bought this album. I had reads about the Arctic Monkeys in both NME and Rolling Stone, and while the press was on their side, I found both "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor" and "Fake Tales of San Francisco" to be annoying and simplistic, and truth be told, I couldn't really trust NME anymore. They hype a new band every other week, and most of them were laughable imitations of the Smiths. Hell, the last good album by a British band was Kid A, and the British press had a sort of critical boycott against that album. But I was coaxed into buying this by my friends, and on the way back from Target, I slipped this album into my CD drive.
What I found was pleasently surprising, and I quickly learned that while this was no cheap Smiths knockoff, it wasn't a second coming of Kid A either. The Arctic Monkeys essentially play a revved-up version of the Libertines's music, with better, smoother production and faster, occasionally heavier punk-garage hybrid that's just more fun to listen to than Pete Doherty's former band. From the shoegazer/My Bloody Valentine-esque layered guitars that start off "The View From the Afternoon" and the album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not just gets heavier and heavier, building great guitar hooks on top of one another surrounded by fuzzed-out noise, while Alex Turner's shamelessly British voice tells intricate stories of surly hookers, shameful scumbags, and no-good whores. But the lyrics aren't succumbing to Nine Inch Nails-style whining, instead the Arctic Monkeys are simply making fun of having fun. And it's funny as hell.
But this harshness reaches such a massive peak; all this fast-paced fun just gets too fast; so the album implodes upon itself, resulting in the most sensitive (!) and the best songs of the album. "Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong, But...", despite the emo-ish title, this is a One Hot Minute-era RHCP-like song filled to the brim of progginess and downtuned guitars, while "Mardy Bum" is the most heartfelt the Arctic Monkeys can get. Yet the Arctic Monkeys reach their musical peak with the album's closer, "A Certain Romance." This song begins with a fiery guitar riff, than quickly condenses into a soft song built around a surf-rock lick and Turner's big "***-you" to the establishment, singing "new music's only made so there's new ringtones." Exactly.
I had gotten home a long time ago, and I was just sitting in my car, mesmerized. I still thought that "I Bet You Look..." and "Fake Tales of San Francisco" were annoying as ***, but I had also been carried away by the tumultuous ride the Arctic Monkeys take you on. This is proggy, this is thrashy, this is punky, this is tender, this is annoying, this is cliched, all in one easy package. "Whatever People Say I Am..." is a very surprising must-buy.