Review Summary: Remarkably astute observational lyrics and excellent song structures enhance an already assured instrumental performance to create a modern classic.
In hindsight, it was inevitable that Arctic Monkeys’ debut LP Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
was going to be a success. An escalating atmosphere of hype surrounded the young quartet in the months leading up to their release, one that was relentlessly intensified by the mainstream British Press. Each new announcement seemed to cause a ripple effect amongst the target demographic; each new single gobbled up and praised beyond all belief, a seemingly endless cycle was spiralling out of control. It’s a testament to the resolve and talent of the fledgling musicians that throughout all of this the band remained completely immune, save for the one cheeky impromptu remark from lead singer Alex Turner preluding the video to their first single I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor
. “Don’t believe the hype”? That’ll be the day.
At its core, Whatever People Say I Am…
is a record that is shamelessly aware of its influences; a continuous amalgamation of Libertinesque faux-punk riffs and extravagant drum fills constructed around frontman Alex Turner’s grungy vocals and effusive lyrics. His renowned ability to pen well-written and tightly arranged songs has never been more evident than on Whatever People Say I Am…
and the album reaps the benefits. Equal parts post-punk and indie-rock provide the framework for Turner to narrate his way through an average night out in Sheffield, but despite his laddish charm and ruffled apperance an astutely dogmatic intelligence prevails.
It’s through this astuteness that subtle nuances within the verses establish themselves, scathing critiques of anything and everything from dismissive critics (Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…
) to wannabe bandwagon jumpers (Fake Tales Of San Francisco
) and beyond. Other tracks express a diverse appreciation of an adolescent nightlife, recollections of bouncers and boozers, chancers and losers, ladies of the night and jaunts in a taxi, all voiced with a boyish enthusiasm and a razor-sharp wit. Undoubtedly the most accomplished narrative, however, is contained within the depths of album closer A Certain Romance
, through which the segregation of youth gang culture is shrewdly deconstructed. The demeanour with which this is depicted contrasts with the rest of the album, a rare slower moment on an album full of intensity.
It’s this intensity that provides much of the dynanism that Whatever People Say I Am…
has been lauded for. The sheer energy apparent right from the start of The View From The Afternoon
is mostly down to drummer Matt Helders who delivers one of the finest alternative drumming performances in recent years. His instinctive interplay with the sharp angular guitar riffs is effective in driving the tracks but also in interuppting the flow when required, a frenzied fill or two cleansing the palate in preparation for a slight variation to follow. Where Turner’s vocalisms liberate some of the more free-standing tracks such as From The Ritz To The Rubble
, a punchier quality is fashioned through the guitar-centric cuts. I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor
and Dancing Shoes
impart some light-hearted dancability in the Franz Ferdinand mould, distinguishing them from their peers.
Perhaps this variety occasionally affects the progression of the record; Riot Van
in particular doesn’t quite live up to the tracks which surround it and causes a slight lull in the consistency of the record, but overall the disparity between the tracks is too well executed to be letdown by such a marginal flaw. Indeed, for such a young band it seems almost trivial to nitpick around such small details when the majority of the record is so remarkable. Arctic Monkeys have since gone on to prove that this was no one hit wonder, evolving their sound in the process, but in doing this they have lost some of the charm and self-assurance so abundant throughout this debut. Whether or not they will ever match Whatever People Say I Am…
is open for debate, but it’s clear that it’s a exceptional debut that proves that, occasionally, it really is okay to believe the hype.
Overall 5.0 Classic