Arctic Monkeys – ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’

In the dawn of 2006, Sheffield four-piece Arctic Monkeys released their debut album, consequently becoming one of the most important albums of the century. Not only that, it’s also the fastest selling debut album in British music history.

This may not have been achieved if it weren’t for the multiple demo tapes that had leaked on the net months before release, generating substantial buzz among press and public audiences ultimately persuading a large chunk to go out and buy the record. What the lads had created here was a sound to behold; a near-perfect mix of catchy, succinct guitar riffs with Alex Turner’s clever wit, vocal delivery and grounded, highly-relatable observations.

Thematically, much of the record (and its overall success) is built around Turner’s observations and depiction of Sheffield, with many references to clubbing and nights out, and the teenage antics rooted within. ‘The View From the Afternoon’ depicts Turner looking forward to what a typical night out can entail, making a witty remark about “the 2 for 1’s” undoing the “writer’s block”. 

Similarly, ‘Dancing Shoes’ tells the tale of young lads going out intending to pull yet they try so hard to mask it as it’s “so absurd to say the first word”.

Turner’s slick lyricism would fall flat if the instrumentation was not up to scratch. The remaining band members successfully support the lyrics with their own brand of indie rock, with tinges of punk thrown in. Matt Helders’ energetic drumming  forms good interplay with bassist Andy Nicholson, who constantly keep each other on their toes.

Guitarist Jamie Cook, along with Turner demonstrate their stellar riffing abilities in ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ which contains great hooks throughout, including a bridge that is a balls-to-the-wall gauntlet of guitar. ‘Still Take You Home’ is equally heavy, featuring a fast, distorted riff that transitions into multiple composites. ‘Riot Van’ may be considered the odd one out but by no means worst, with its subdued delivery and overall stripped back, bluesy aesthetic.

As the record progresses, it becomes apparent that the band had fully realised the sound they wanted to put out with this album. The superb balance of clean and distorted tones points towards a record that is carefully constructed and polished, down to the last note. Clever use of guitar layering, as heard in ‘A Certain Romance’ is just a small piece of a very successful and accomplished puzzle.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Essential tracks: Fake Tales of San Francisco // Still Take You Home // A Certain Romance


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