Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Arctic Monkeys-Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

Remember when I said how The Strokes were an influential band, particularly across the pond? By “pond” I meant Atlantic ocean and by that I meant England. By “influential” I meant that dozens of British bands took a look at the Strokes blueprint and started dishing out a shitload of smug young rock bands. What’s cool is how many of these bands managed to actually outdo what the Stokes started. So while we’re reeling in the disappointment of the Strokes third release, we’re suddenly enraptured at England’s Arctic Monkeys debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” How much are we reeling? The album became the fasted selling debut indie album in England’s history and, holy shit, the album sold enough copies here in Amerikkka to debut in the top forty. The Strokes are probably laughing their asses off at how the Monkeys are going to work efficiently while the English music press prepares to dismantle them around the time they begin working on their second album.
You see, every other week, N.M.E. et all seem to “discover” a new flavor and force feed it down our/their throats until we can’t even look at eating it again. It’s the same reason why the SLF can’t eat plain M&Ms. It’s the same reason why another friend can no longer eat Pringles. It’s why I can’t get near cocaine, but that’s another story. What you’ve got to consider in these cases is the source (English music press) and take it with a grain of salt and a few free downloads before you formulate your own opinion. But here’s a case where I would strongly encourage you to avoid listening to the editors of the N.M.E. and, instead, listen to this awesome debut from a very capable rock band from Sheffield, England.

You’ll immediately notice that there’s nothing really new here. You won’t care, either. “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” will hopefully be a mantra that the Arctic Monkeys believe in, because whatever me, you, or the N.M.E. says about them, these guys (for the time being) seem to be having a good time at what they’re doing and they do it quite well. Think back to how good The Stone Roses debut is and then how let down you felt when “Second Coming” came around. You waited for that fucker forever and, because of its limitations, you felt a little silly about getting all hot and bothered over their debut, didn’t you? But before that second record, you couldn’t tell enough people about the Stone Roses. You did the same thing with Oasis. You might have even done it for Blur, didn’t you, you silly little Anglophile? All I’m saying is that the new Arctic Monkeys record will make you feel the same way, and apparently over a 100,000 English kids feel it along with 30,000 “hip” Americans, according to the last SoundScan figures. So you can try and deflate this, if you’d like, but the rest of us will be digging on the record’s solid delivery of 13 well-crafted-and-even-better-execution-of rock songs. It’s the album The Strokes wish they would have made, but they didn’t and now we have to deal with the fact that some British kids did and did it better.
The biggest difference is that that Alex Turner writes way better than Julian Casablancas does and better than most rock lyricists around today, English or otherwise. He’s got a keen eye for observation and a savvy way of putting them down into clever couplets. Check out this line from their “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”:

“And as the microphone squeaks
A young girl's telephone beeps
Yeah she's dashing for the exit
she's running to the streets outside
"Oh you've saved me,"
she screams down the line
"The band were fuckin’ wankin’
And I'm not having a nice time”

An incident like this has happened in any club in America while a local band struggles to find their sound on stage in front of a couldn’t-be-bothered audience. But it took a bloke like Turner to turn it back on us. With a line like that, it’s impressive. What makes it better? The next line. In it, Turner notices the girlfriend of one of the band member. She obediently watches her man on stage, enjoying the sounds of her struggling partner while others talk on their cell phones. “..proof that love’s not only blind, but deaf.”
Something like this may have actually happened during the band’s brief existence and, I’d like to think, prompted them to really focus on their chops and become the shithot outfit that we hear on this record. I’d love to see this band live, but it looks like I’m not the only one: the brief American club tour they’re about to embark on is already sold out and, guaranteed, not one person will be running away from the stage to talk on the phone.

Most of the negative reviews that I’ve read about this album point to the entire “derivative” nature of it. It is derivative. Ain’t that the point of a band that essentially takes the ball from a couple of admittedly derivative bands (Libertines and Strokes) and rocks the shit out of an impressive lyricist’s material? And while the Libertines focused their eye on junkiedom and while the Strokes professed to be bored in a city that never sleeps, Arctic Monkeys seem content and credible to focus on regular blokes. Since when is it a bad thing that a few regular blokes actually demonstrate enough ambition to become proficient at their instruments? The album rocks and those that have it probably know this by now. Those critics that actually are dumb enough to expect an epiphany moment because N.M.E. hipster says so doesn’t deserve the free album copy they were provided.

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