Arctic Monkeys
October 28, 2009, 4:18 am
Filed under: Album Reviews: Noted Artists, Unpublished



Its been a disappointing year for follow-up albums. One after the other, former stellar beings fell short of the promise of their debut. Kasabian’s glam offering Empire to their detriment retired Kasabian’s stupendously exciting Post-XTRMTR, steel-fisted swagger, The Killers grandiose Springsteen-cribbing on Sam’s Town dulled their bright-eyed Indie sparkle and Razorlight tendered for global dominance, carving the insides out of their heart-racing strain of Television-indebted rock and roll.

Of all the new acts, however the Arctic Monkey were deservedly the story of the times. On 2006’s Whatever…, the fastest-selling debut since Definitely Maybe, insanely catchy pop-punk combined with Alex Turner’s precociously wise social observations to conjure a micro-universe, a figurative tacky Saturday Night Club thick with blue smoke, St-Tropez and cheap perfume, where a table of Bacardi Breezers is upended by a fight with a wayward old school friend, all the while underage adolescents, students, thugs and spinsters to-and-fro between the ciggie machine, the dance floor and the inside of a stranger’s smoky mouth. The songwriting, the untrammelled energy, the musicianship and Turner’s vivid, irascible story-telling, together yielded an instant classic.

Initially it seems as though the Arctic Monkeys have, like many of their peers, dropped the ball on this their follow-up L.P, Favourite Worst Nightmare. Coming in at just over 35 minutes, the album has no shortage of punch, but it seems bland, uninspired, maybe even laboured in comparison to its predecessor. It’s only after two or three listens that its myriad charms successfully wrench your head-space from the clutches of Whatever. And after you become accustomed the new taste, when you restart the rotation with heavy surf-rocker ‘Brianstorn’ the buzz returns and your adrenal glands flood with all same pleasures that Whatever afforded. The rest comes away like a ceaseless all-nighter on the tiles, the boys bouncing from pub to club to Kebabery, dodging local crims, sharing cigarettes with down-and-out Sheffieldians, poignant tutorials with wizened steel workers, stealing kisses from Debbie Mid-Riff and then back to base camp to trade sad stories, pine for past girlfriends and weather the inevitable come-down with a glass of warm brandy.

Such is the prevailing trend of the Noughties, a real plurality of influences informs Monkey philosophy. Turner’s admiration for Roots Manuva has him again spitting lyrical dexterity from minute one, relenting only for the surprisingly long interludes of tribal drums and scratchy jaunts into whirling riffage, completely incompatible with the verbose pop fare on Whatever. Shades of QOTSA’s howling racket of weirdness are pronounced, made possible of course by the considerable talents of Matt Helders’. And again contained in Turner’s winsome northern poetry is the ghost of old Misery Guts.

Track 2 is ‘Teddy Picker‘. An attack on the British media that’s hammered out with vitriolic intent by young men who have faced its white-hot worst. It still manages the trick of being neither self-pitying, undignified or spitefully puerile. Naturally though, Turner still makes times for a few well-aimed swipes at the press-men and ends with the jibe ‘How can we be a band of the people / when there’s people like you?”.

An uplifting slice of sweet whimsy, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ serves as incongruous reminder of Turner’s special gift for the three-minute Pop song, which is tailed by the plaintive ‘Only One that Knows’, an exercise in balmy ambience that’s carried on crestfallen slide-guitar. Its at this point that the album veers into uncharted territory proper.

A band whose meteoric rise to mainstream ubiquity caught even the professionals off-guard could never write the same laser-precise profiles of young life in Britain, post fame. After all, their lives are most probably far from typical of your average 20-year old. As a result though its perhaps not the seminal crystallisation of U.K youth culture that was Whatever, due in part to the fact that Turner can no longer reside bar-side unnoticed, able to cast his acerbic eye on his funny little generation undisturbed and as one of them, so why not take the band into the stratosphere and into the realms of something resolutely more unearthly and indefinable? Hence, Side 2 becomes a grinning evil of oblique, forceful song writing paired with colossal rock licks and cryptic, impressionistic lyrics, far removed from the cute pop-smithery and naïf sweetness that defines their back catalogue of classic single and superb B-sides.

All of which amounts to a daring escape from what could have developed into a career in Lad-Rock pandering,at once a maturation, a continuation and a departure, showcasing a much more intense sound but unmistakably the sound of the Arctic Monkeys. Once again its a brilliant effort from four young men barely old enough to vote.





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