Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Arctic Monkeys could have been just another band in the legion of British indie acts that followed in the wake of The Strokes and The Libertines, but something ended up being a bit different about them. Following the circulation of a few early demos online, word quickly spread about the Arctic Monkeys through word of mouth. The British press—like they seem to do with a new act every year—quickly declared them the best band in the UK, and a new EP and single release sent hype and expectations for a debut album to levels not seen since Oasis’ Definitely Maybe. And the hype transferred over to sales, with Whatever People Say I Am… becoming (at the time) the fastest selling UK album ever. All this attention gives the impression that Arctic Monkeys’ debut was either vastly eclectic or innovative compared to the music of their peers, which ends up not really being the case. But while the album was overhyped, it still would have garnered attention anyway simply on the grounds that it is very good.
As mentioned before, the Arctics were coming of age during the rise of the Strokes and their British counterpart, the Libertines, the two bands which provided the launch for many a British band of the 2000s. But along with learning a few musical tricks, the band also shares those two bands’ knack for expressing their youthful exuberance. Opener “The View From The Afternoon” frames a day of teenage debauchery in messy, clanging chords; others such as the hit “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” rely just as much on call-and-response vocals as off-kilter, kinetic riffs and grooves. But the Arctics excel above many of their peers because of two reasons: 1) the band has a propulsive power and a natural knack for songwriting that is evident even on the relatively lightweight tracks (the underage drinking tale “Riot Van,” the excellent “You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me”) and 2) Alex Turner’s distinctive lyrics. Throughout the course of the album, Turner observes, celebrates, and mocks the shallow Sheffield nightlife and the youth subcultures that inhabit it, especially in the album’s best track, “A Certain Romance.” Though Turner’s skills don’t quite reach the masterful wit of fellow Sheffield resident Jarvis Cocker, Turner’s style is relatively similar, telling stories and crafting characters from what he sees and hears. The album loses a wee bit of momentum in the middle, but Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not proves that there was much, much more to Arctic Monkeys than just being the first band to become prominent because of the Internet.