Arctic Monkeys get cold shoulder in the States

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The Independent Culture

Americans have been hearing about the next big thing in British rock, and wanting to believe it, ever since the Beatles made their clamorous stateside debut at New York's Shea Stadium in 1964. That may help to explain the scepticism, and the disappointment, that has greeted the Arctic Monkeys as they tried to replicate their impact on British pop culture on the other side of the Atlantic.

"Overhyped Monkeys," was the verdict of one critic. He was not alone. The Sheffield band made a mediocre impression when they appeared on the cult television comedy show Saturday Night Live, and failed to come over as much more than a pleasingly energetic garage band when they played the showcase performance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Nobody thought they were terrible. Plenty of critics, in Canada and the US, liked their playing, liked their lyrics, liked their energy and honesty. Some even said they held the promise of future greatness. But almost none was prepared to say the greatness has already arrived.

"The complete package is damn fine. For about two or three tunes," the Canadian critic Stuart Derdeyn wrote after their Austin show. "Then you start grinding your teeth, and believe you've been had by the Brit music machine once again."

Variety had a similar reaction to a show in Los Angeles. "Maybe this was an off night," the entertainment journal said. "Perhaps, for all the sales and hype, the band has been brought up too quickly and isn't ready to headline." Word of the Monkeys' soaring reputation preceded them. Their US tour sold out in minutes, and they were the most hotly anticipated act at South by Southwest which attracts one of the most discerning, and influential, audiences of any music festival in North America. The Austin festival glaringly failed to give them the accolade of best band; that honour went to another bunch of Brits, Art Brut.

"They were risking it, an all-in move for more attention," New York Newsday wrote. "They weren't ready. Their set seemed nervous and rushed, though still adequate. Singer Alex Turner, whose well-written, detailed lyrics are a high point of the band's mix of raging, punkish guitars and Britpop pomp, was bratty, and, at times, inscrutable."

Arctic Monkeys are due to play tonight at Webster Hall in New York tonight, followed by three other US dates - in Philadelphia, Washington and Seattle - then fly to Japan. They return to Britain next month.

A tough market to crack

* The Beatles: The Fab Four stormed America on their 1964 tour, topping both the singles and albums charts.

* Oasis: The band lost their chance to break into America when Liam Gallagher abandoned the 1997 Here & Now Tour, leaving Noel to play a disastrous LA gig.

* Robbie Williams, right: Despite repeated efforts to take his European success Stateside, EMI was forced to say Williams had ruled out US plans.

* Coldplay: In 2001, Parachutes found its way on to a host of critics' "Top Tens" and fans embraced the band as the "nice guys" of British rock. The band now has a clutch of Grammys under its belt.