January 22, 2006

Arctic Monkeys: Band of the Moment

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

In amongst one hundred other observations, experiences and sensations charted in the Arctic Monkeys' debut Alex Turner gasps "oh how the feeling races". They may be the trendy band of the moment, but for the Arctic Monkeys the intensity of the moment is the only thing worth writing about. 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' is an album borne out of the heightened emotional instances of youth, in a way that parts of Maximo Park's debut were last year ("the night has reached that stage again where I never want to see my home").

Confidence is written large across many of the songs, not only in the energy and eye for melody bursting from every riff and chorus. Defiance bursts from several lines ("I'm sorry officer, is there a certain age you're supposed to be?") but this is also an album about hope ("tonight there'll be some love…"), confusion (""now the haze is descending it don't make no sense any more"), self-righteous indignation ("how come its already £2.50 – we've only gone about a yard") and falling for someone ("its up, up and away").

More precisely the Arctic Monkeys' songs chronicle what its like to be old enough to know better but young enough not to care. 'Riot Van' starts with "Up rolls the riot van, and sparks confusion in the boys". Its a knowing glance at the likely course of action which anticipates the nature of "the boys"' response. We're in the territory gloriously romanticised in The Libertines' Time for Heroes ("wombles bleed, truncheons and shields – you know I cherish you my love"). But as the song goes on, Turner's lyrics reveal an empathy and captivation with the scenes of late-night town centre anarchy, until eventually we sense that rather than watching he was actually one of the group who "Got the chase last night from men with truncheons dressed in hats".

'Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured' tells a similar story from the back of a Sheffield taxi. Turner's response to a drunken fight is to find it "funny". Its the fact that he is not a jaded world-weary bystander (like say Morrissey or increasingly, Doherty) that is so refreshing and which changes the tone of his insights into the difficulty of making the step from youth to adulthood: "you're acting like silly little boys – I know you wanted to be men and do some fighting in the street"

Turner's observational stance is astonishingly precocious at times but if he demonstrates an astute insight into the world he inhabits it is clear that he has no desire to leave any time soon. On 'Still Take You Home' he acknowledges to a girl in a girl "I can't see through your fake tan", happy to give into the power of the moment. A Certain Romance's dissection of chav culture again shows Turner with his older and wiser hat on, but in this album closer loyalty to longstanding friends is more important ("though they might overstep the mark you just cannot get angry in the same way"). A glorious climax of guitars then cuts in and concludes a wonderful album with its only significant instrumental section.

Sense tells us that they cannot keep this up for ever. Songs that stand both inside and outside the spaces in which youth plays out its frenetic race towards sedentary maturity will give way to sedentary maturity. For now that doesn't matter. We've grown so used to being told that bands are for the future that it's marvellous to have one that is so powerfully about, from and of the moment.


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  1. worst band I've heard in a very long time.
    Sound like a bad version of the Libertines, who were never listenable past the first two spins of the cd anyway.
    Too many bands out now singing about being teenagers and geting into scraps in town centres cos they're so hard that they got pissed. Get over it.

    23 Jan 2006, 22:40

  2. cant say i agree. i always look to resist the hype if possible but i've been blown away by this album (and im not an indie type). I admit there are a lot of bands who are treading this particular path but i think Turner's lyrics really have an extra depth. Even the simple lines from the singles 'hes got a driving ban amongst some other offences' or 'got engaged, no intention of a wedding', damn near all of 'mardy bum' Lines like that just speak volumes because the tap into the life we all know so well, unlike say Hard-Fi, who i just dont get. Plus musically i think they've got a force and a charm beyond anyone else

    31 Jan 2006, 15:52

  3. "hes got a driving ban amongst some other offences"
    "got engaged, no intention of a wedding"

    Oh yes, I see now. He is a lyrical genius.

    Doesn't sound like a second rate rapper at all with those lines, no.

    01 Feb 2006, 23:26

  4. You sound a bit bitter about their success dude! Interested to know if you've heard the album?

    02 Feb 2006, 12:30

  5. Oh yeah, I'm definately bitter. You're spot on. I actually really think they are awesome. His voice is amazingly variable and doesn't sound like that disgraceful idiot Doherty at all.
    Had their eps before most people had heard of them. don't have it anymore. Had to delete it from my pc it was that bad.

    06 Feb 2006, 13:58

  6. I must admit I've been doing my best not to like the album (don't really know why) but actually it's pretty good. I think it's the lyrics that have forced me to listen to it a fair number of times. There are two moments on the album that for me sum up this band. The first are the albums opening lines: "Anticipation has a habit to set you up / For disappointment…". For a band that has been as hyped as the Monkeys to start their eagerly awaited album with such a statement is brave. It could be seen to be a statement of bravado… 'you might be looking forward to this and expect to be disappointed… well you won't be', it could just be irony or it could be stupidity. Either way it works and they get away with it. The album does deliver on this confidence… 'tonight there'll be a ruckus yeah / Regardless of what's gone before'.

    The second moment that really grabbed my attention was the lines in 'red light indicates doors are secured': "Oh won't he let us have six in? Especially not with the food / He coulda just told us no though, he didn't have to be rude". It's been a while since I've heard a series of good songs, about subjects as everyday as a taxi journey, sound so lyrical and acoumplished.

    As I said I'm still not a huge fan of this band and the album is far from flawless but any band that can produce something this decent as a debut, as well as amassing such a hugely dedicated fanbase as they have deserves the success.

    16 Feb 2006, 14:28


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