'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' Album reviews.
Record label: Domino Records
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
by: Chris Marshall
It seems once every few months an artist arrives from across the Atlantic, destined to take over the country and wipe clean the bad tastes of Ashlee Simpson and Nickelback from our collective palates. Consequently, 10 times out of 10, these bands fail miserably and never fully garner the popularity they experienced in their home countries (see - Libertines, The). Such are the lofty expectations for Arctic Monkeys, the English rock quartet who received so much praise before the release of its debut album that one would believe The Beatles were reuniting (and resurrecting) for a world tour.
In a world where many artists are quick to denounce Internet file-sharing as the scourge of the music industry, Arctic Monkeys is a prime example of the wonders it can do to promote a new band searching for an audience. After the band uploaded its early demos online, its popularity exploded and shows quickly became sold out wherever they were booked. According to an interview with MTV, the band didn't realize the enormous impact of the Internet until the audience began singing along to a song that had not been officially released during a show in England. Lead singer Alex Turner was amazed at the sight, stating, "I had to stop playing, I was pissing myself."
It is difficult to imagine that the hype has yet to penetrate the band's collective conscience, considering the heated bidding war that occurred after it had played only a few live shows. Independent record label Domino Records, home to the indie-rock darlings Neutral Milk Hotel and the late Elliott Smith, emerged victorious. Like many bands before them, Arctic Monkeys borrows styles from several different genres of music to form its own unique sound, like the visceral guitar riffs of The Clash and the lyrical wit of Elvis Costello. The clever wordplay, courtesy of Turner, is most evident on the track, "Fake Tales of San Francisco." The song describes in full detail the nonexistent exploits of bands that try to live the stereotypical rock 'n' roll lifestyle, as Turner snarls over ska-guitar rhythms, "You're not from New York City / You're from Rotherham / So get off the bandwagon / And put down the handbook."
While all of the members of the band are under the age of 21, its lyrics are not necessarily going to showcase much maturity. Rather, common themes throughout "Whatever People Say I Am" deal with such problems as getting too drunk and desperately trying to get girls back to your flat. On "Still Take You Home," Turner attempts to reel one in, using brilliant pick-up lines like, "You're probably alright / But under these lights you look beautiful." This brash delivery is what endears the band to its loyal following. However, Arctic Monkeys shows its post-pubescent soft side on the album. The ballad "Mardy Bum" trades Turner's trademark confidence for fractured laments, where he tries to find possible excuses for a recent breakup - "Yeah I'm sorry I was late / Well I missed the train and then the traffic was a state."
While Arctic Monkeys sound the best when its speeding through two-minute punk anthems, "Mardy Bum" demonstrates its versatility and youthful wisdom. The highlight of the album is their lead single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor." Like their buddies Franz Ferdinand, this is its "Take Me Out" - a three minute, non-stop party song meant to rile its crowds into an energetic fervor. Over a bouncing bass line, Turner sings, "Oh, there ain't no love / No Montagues or Capulets / Just banging tunes and DJ sets," telling listeners to forget chasing tail for the night and just have fun.
Critics have been quick to dismiss Arctic Monkeys as a retreat of bands like The Strokes or The Vines, which is clearly evident on its weaker songs. Although the band may not be charting unknown musical territory, it is still capable of adding a distinct twist to old styles, creating an entertaining debut album in the process.