Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not
I get the feeling in many ways that I’m going to be in a minority here. I’ve seen and heard nothing but sweeping praise for the “spotty poetry” and ‘meteoric rise’ of t’Arctic Monkeys. I was, depressingly, not as surprised as I should have been when the NME (a bête noire of mine at the best of times) rated it fifth greatest album ever made, two days after it’s release (that’s four places above the Beatles highest). We’ll see.
I feel like something of a fool when I explain to people my approach to new records by quoting Shakespeare: “I’ll look to like, if looking liking moves.” I wanted to like the Monkeys after I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor: it wasn’t your average UK number one, it’s romantically seedy small-town tales and muscular riffs cutting through the last vestiges of summer floor-fillers like a hot knife through butter.
However, one good single does not a great album make, and unfortunately, the rest of the record becomes pretty tedious, pretty quickly. Opener View From the Afternoon is a decent enough start but the album tails off after ...Dancefloor. That’s the second track. When the single came out it really was a breath of fresh air in the charts, a non-major label band that write, play, everything, who’ve promoted themselves into that position, and fair play to them. But you know what? Even this track seems to have lost some its original bluster and bravado when placed in context of the album.
Granted, there are some clever word plays and the overtly Northern vocals add a particularly idiosyncratic quirk to the lyrics. In fact, it probably goes too far, as I’ve never met a Northerner who speaks with that much fluidity yet with that much vocal inflection. I guess it’s street poetry, of a sort, but it’s not saying anything that wasn’t said by the Libertines several years ago, even by the Clash, close to thirty years ago. It’s grimy indie discos; it’s girlfriends walking out on you; it’s bouncers and town centres on a Friday night; it’s Riot Van’s coppers and kids; it’s Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured’s alcopops and street fights; it’s been done before. It’s so familiar as to be old hat. It’s also depressingly cynical for a band that weren’t born at the time of most of the references they name-check (Duran Duran in 1984, for instance) – after a year that saw a good number of releases celebrating beauty and creativity for beauty and creativity’s sake, it saddens me that what sells is still the Cigarettes & Alcohol of twelve (yes, twelve) years ago.
They’re also attempting to salvage a musical template that’s been recycled more times than the ropey Golf at the second-hand showrooms down the road. So sadly, despite great promise and almost unprecedented hype, the album’s a fairly shallow experience – it annoys me now, I hate to think what state I’ll be in if I have to keep listening to it, and to people harping on about it, for months to come.
1 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Even before listening to their music, this band is interesting in two respects: their age (all members were 19-20 y.o. when the album was released in January 2006) and the way their songs became popular even before the release of their first album through demo tapes and, more importantly, file-sharing on the net. As a result, not only were people able to sing along during their gigs before the songs were officially published, but their album was the fastest sale for a debut album in the UK. Some critics however pointed out that they have also beneficiated from a strong support by the highly influential music magazine NME, earning them the label of "NME band". They've refused to appear on UK television since late 2005 or at prizes ceremonies, like the Brit Awards, adding to the controversy surrounding them
Anyway, once you strip away the hype, what's left? Well, I'd say a pretty decent first album, which musical landscape is a bit of a "the Clash meet Trainspotting", combining a sound bordering on the punk rock of the former with a contagious, albeit sometimes unfocused, youthful energy and lyrics reflecting the realities of working class life but devoid of the strong political positions ever present with Joe Strummer. With more than half the songs running below 3 minutes, and only two above four, it is extremely fast-paced. This is especially true of the first half of the album, which runs more on raw energy than anything else and, as a result, passes you by in a bit of a chaotic blur, despite the highly recognizable and entertaining first single "I Bet you look good on the dancefloor"
Things change, however, with the quieter and somewhat moody "Riot Van", allowing the listener to finally enjoy the rich and surprisingly nuanced voice of lead singer Alex Turner; and they keep improving over the last half-dozen of songs. The more measured energy distiled let us better appreciate other aspects of their music: the more intricate structure of "Perhaps Vampires is a bit strong but...." and "A certain romance", the clever rhythm of "Red Light indicates doors are secured", and when the pace picks up again ("When the Sun goes down"), it isn't as overwhelming as it feels gratifying and pleasurable
They came top in a good number of "top album of the year" lists. I can't agree, as I think others would far more deserve that honor - Midlake's "The Trials of Van Occupanther", Band of Horses' "Everything all the time", M Ward's "Post War", Editors' "The Back Room", not to mention sensation Gnarls Barckley's "St. Elsewhere" or, obviously, Thom Yorke's "The Eraser" all come to mind instead. Arctic Monkeys are a lot of things, but original is not one of them. There's no original sound, no ambition to break new grounds. But their enthusiasm is contagious, and they do propose an overall highly enjoyable first act, and deserve to be watched out for their next album, rumored to be released as early as late Spring this year
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
A smashing album
The Arctic Monkeys. You've got to give it to them, starting off as such a small band in Sheffield and within a few months have become a No.1 single band. Then refusing to come on shows like TOTP's and trying to calm the public down with all their don't believe the hype messages. And then saying to NME that they'll play in their "Breakthrough Bands Of 2005" tour but than refusing to headline it! So with two number 1 singles "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor" and "When The Sun Goes Down" under their belt we were eagerly expecting what next.
Well I can safely say that they've delivered a crackin' debut album, especially as they had been put under alot of pressure. It's no Definitely Maybe or Revolver (who on earth said they were better than The Beatles anyway?), but it sure is a decent album from a band who are pretty young and hopefully have only just started on their long line of great hits and albums.
My personal favourites include "Fake Tales Of San Francisco", "Riot Van" and "Mardy Bum". And everyones favourites seem to be "From The Ritz To The Rubble" and a great ending to the album "A Certain Romance", but it's all good stuff.
So then why only a 4? Well I like to give out 5's for not just great albums but also great bands. I wouldn't say the Arctic Monkeys have justified that title yet, simply because this is only their first album. But I did find one dissapointment with the album and that is, that certain songs are not on the album that clearly deserve to be. "Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts" a B-side from "Dancefloor" is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Monkeys best track, and "Stickin' To The Floor" another B-side but this time from "When The Sun Goes Down" also deserves a mention. Lets hope these songs are featured in their new EP because they definitely deserve to be heard by a wider audience than just the single-buyers.
Anyway I'd hate to finish on a low so overall this album is in a way a Must-Buy to all. Lets hope we see more of the hard-working Monkeys in the future.
0 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Rock & Pop Tracks on CD
Titles on Disc 1
1.: View From The Afternoon
2.: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
3.: Fake Tales Of San Francisco
4.: Dancing Shoes
5.: You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Starin
6.: Still Take You Home
7.: Riot Van
8.: Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured
9.: Mardy Bum
10.: Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But...
11.: When The Sun Goes Down
12.: From The Ritz To The Rubble
13.: Certain Romance
3 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Almost... the album of the year!
Inside In/Inside Out by The Kooks has to be the album of the year, but I can confidently say that the debut from the new sensations Arctic Monkeys comes a very close second. You must've heard the two number one singles "When The Sun Goes Down" and "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", and following those two smash hit singles, I was pleased to find the album is not a case of a purchase made for simply two great tracks. A couple of tracks are weaker than others, but I do not believe they can be described as fillers, almost every track here belongs on this album.
If you loved the two singles and in the unlikely event you don't own the album yet, do not hesitate to buy it right away! And for all of us that are hooked on this album, we can only hope that this band's remarkable music and success continues, or perhaps get even better as time goes by.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful.