Album: Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, DOMINO
Friday 20 January 2006
Less measured and methodical, more lairy than art-school poseurs like Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys represent instead the high-water-mark (so far) of the post-Libertines wave of British social-observation rockers. Alex Turner is a vastly more original songwriter than any of your Hard-Fis, Others and Ordinary Boys, and manages to apply far greater discipline to his craft than Pete Doherty, without sacrificing the raucous edge that gives it life, or the artistry that illuminates that life.
"Tonight there'll be a ruckus, regardless of what went before," advises Turner in the opening "The View from the Afternoon", living up to his promise by whisking the listener on a whirlwind tour of provincial teenage life - effectively one long, extended ruckus, from rumbling with the bouncers at a club, and chatting up a girl made beautiful by a judicious combination of beer goggles and caked-on cosmetics, to getting slapped around by cops in the back of a riot van. The perfect end to a perfect evening, some might say. But with his tales of Eccleshall pseuds in Hunter's Bar and taxi-rides to Hillsborough, Turner manages to invest his songs with a vivid sense of locality. That same strain of South Yorkshire pride comes through in the unapologetic dialect inflections and the splendid track title "Mardy Bum", which finds him chiding a girlfriend who's "all argumentative and got the face on".
As he rattles through his narratives and observations, individual lines poke out enticingly to snare one's attention - the rhyming of "dreams of naughtiness" with "Montagues and Capulets"; the droll mention of "all the weekend rock stars in the toilet, practicing their lines"; the shrewd but cynical claim that "there's only music so that there's new ringtones"; and in the uncoolest pop-cultural reference you'll find on an album as achingly hip as this, the self-appraisal: "I'm so tense, never tenser/It could all go a bit Frank Spencer."
Except for a brief loss of impetus in the middle eight of "Still Take You Home", it all zips along at breakneck pace, with the band's contemporary punk-pop sound infused with some of the scrawny, blue-eyed R&B feel of 1960s bands like the Stones, Who and Pretty Things - always useful when effecting an alliance of the downtrodden and the delinquent. The only sour note is cast by "Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But", on which the meaty bulldozer chords are employed in a graceless rant about trendy detractors who "pretend to stand by us [even though] you're certain we'll fail". It's the sort of paranoia one expects from old rock lags with chips on their shoulders.
DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Mardy Bum', 'A Certain Romance', 'Dancing Shoes'
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