Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
David Segurola 07/01/2006
Ignore the hype and the media frenzy. Ignore the off-putting morons babbling on about "The fuckin' Monkeys mate, class mate". Ignore this terribly deconstructive bandwagon banter and approach the much-awaited debut with an open mind. You dare read on with a mind full of prejudice and preconception, you just dare!
Whatever your opinions are of The Arctic Monkeys, it is undeniable that they are the height of scuzzy, modern indie pop. On levels of popularity, they are 05/06's Franz Ferdinand. They're so good, people, quite understandably, don't want to like them. Nobody wants to like the band everybody else likes. That's boring. Give me underground free-form jazz funk over this popular stuff any day. I can say, quite comfortably, that Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not will be a big success, no matter how atrocious the title is. The simple existence of the album makes it a success. This is The Arctic fucking Monkeys, the hottest band in the world ever. Everybody loves them. It's like the rules. I would wager, even further, that the album will get to No.1 in the album chart and that somebody somewhere will proclaim it a classic of some variety.
It's not a classic, most of us will be sure of that. This is good pop; this is excellent, dirty, fun pop. This is the stuff girls and boys will dance to in scrotty concrete jungle indie clubs, this is the stuff people who don't even like rock and roll will like. This is the stuff kids will lose their virginity to in a thousand bedrooms in a thousand British towns. This is the stuff that will get played everywhere for at least a year or so. If internet users thought, much like me, that the 'Monkeys were huge already, we haven't seen the beginning of it. Not by a long shot. Because, you must remember, The Arctic Monkeys were making headlines and making news long before the release of this album. Their murmur has been spreading through the ranks for what seems an age now. To most of us music pirates, they seem positively archaic. Streaming and downloadable mp3s have pushed the young Sheffield lads up and up and up a little bit more. Having already made a (marginally) historic No.1 in the singles chart with the prolific "Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor", their public image fronts a wave of new indie rock and roll bands strolling into the mainstream. Did I say strolling? I meant strutting. Look at Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Hard-Fi and... need I go on? They're part of something.
The album starts with "The View From The Afternoon", a poppy, confident, swaying piece of guitar tomfoolery. "Tonight there'll be a ruckus, regardless of what's gone before,” wails that darling young chap that fronts the band with Gallagher-like manifest. Voted the coolest person in music by NME, apparently. Whilst I'd disagree quite profusely, Alex's style and demeanor aren't a finite energy source. His post-pubescent crackle and croak deliver with magnificence by the bucket load. Faultless lyrically, AM manage to be bombastic and sarky and snarling without losing the charm: "What a scummy man, I bet he'd rob you if he can". That's where the appeal to youth stems from, as these "real" lyrics tell tales of sex and debauchery and shit gig nights watching shit bands in shit towns. Something far too many kids can relate to. I know I can.
Highlights of the album remain those tracks on the scarcely released and much treasured Beneath The Boardwalk EP and those that have been floating about the realm of the internet for eons -- "Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor", "Fake Tales Of San Francisco", "A Certain Romance", "Mardy Bum", "When The Sun Goes Down" (still referred to as "Scummy" by those of us who are intent on remaining old school). In fact, I had heard all but 4 tracks before the proper release, although the re-recordings keep the vigour and strength of demo recordings but with new-found professionalism.
"Mardy Bum" remains one of the finest modern pop songs I've ever heard, whilst "A Certain Romance" bears all of the musical intelligence and power that (dare I mutter their name?) made The Libertines what they were. "Riot Van" is a harmonious, somber recollection of youth and their relationship to the police. "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" is The Arctic Monkeys' "Take Me Out": their defining factor. Newer tracks include the manic “You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Looking As Straight At Me” (the track that should also be celebrated for the first ever rock and roll Frank Spencer reference) and “Perhaps Vampire Is A Bit Strong, But…” serving as a fittingly instrumental, drum-heavy sentiment, with Alex bawling, “All you people are vampires!” Some things just make most sense when shouted, I guess.
I was cynical about this -- before I'd even heard it in full, I assumed it would be a flop. It's inevitable, isn't it? Doesn't that just sum everything up about the modern music scene? A good band get leapt on by the drooling and deplorable side of the public (not you, dear reader) and they get dragged down. As they put it so adequately themselves, "Get off the bandwagon and put down the anvil, yeah yeah yeah". The irony is not lost on some. However, I've been proven well and truly wrong, as much as it pains me to concede such a thing. Whatever... is a good, intelligent album. It's verging on great, but not a classic. The public will receive it marvelously; they'll cherish it and play it very loud out of their bedroom windows. Good luck to 'em. I must also admit I forgot the age and the tender innocence that should be surrounding such a young band, at just 18 or 19. You forget that this is kids. That could be you, singing bitter tales of society and its twists and turns.
No classic album, but who was seriously expecting a classic? This is decade defining stuff. And long may it remain so.