Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not 8 ( 2006 )
The View From The Afternoon / I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor / Fake Tales Of San Francisco / Dancing Shoes / You Probably Couldn't See Me For The Lights But You Were Looking Straight At Me / Still Take You Home / Riot Van / Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured / Mardy Bum / Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But... / When The Sun Goes Down / From The Ritz To The Rubble / A Certain Romance
I believe almost everybody on the planet has heard the story of Arctic Monkeys by now. Reaching number one in the UK with their debut single release, largely because of internet promotion rather than regular routes, such as airplay. Then of course, the NME get on the bandwagon, hyping Arctic Monkeys to such previously unknown levels, even for the NME, that they've recently proclaimed this album right here the fourth best album of all time. Let's wait a second, though. I'm going to try something on you guys. True artists bemoan record company means of promotion, such as having the first 30 seconds of each track on a new album played down the phone to potential radio-people, industry people, etc. Basing an albums possible promotion and reception upon such a ridiculous thing as that? Modern listening habits for a lot of people are just like that, though. Trying it with the clumsily titled 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' reveals that every song is based upon the same energetic guitar bass and drums format. Arctic Monkeys aren't reinventing the wheel, here. Great debut albums often offer something we've not heard before. Arctic Monkeys offer us lyrics like The Streets, music that's The Libertines and vocals like an English Strokes. Putting Streets type street-wise, real-life lyrics to punk-rock music is relatively new and to be admired, I suppose. Sadly, if we're looking for originality, that's the only notible aspect of Arctic Monkeys and their debut album. I'm being deliberately harsh, aren't I? Well, of course I am. Sometimes certain things need to be dissected as a counter-point to unanimous praise. This album both isn't as good as NME and the like say it is and isn't as bad as American music fans, still clutching to The Strokes and The Beatles, say it is.
Arctic Monkeys are cheeky though, as their name might suggest. 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco', one of the standouts here, borrows the a riff from The Cheeky Girls. The entire song is based around a fluffy, silly Cheeky Girls riff, transported to rock guitar. The lyrics here are observant and hard-hitting, story-telling, and actually very good indeed. The part where the vocals first stop and we get a little instrumental section before the vocals come back in over this stupendous noise is one of the highlights of the record and almost justifies all the hype. Arctic Monkeys certainly have something about them, then? Well, yes, of course they do. Number one single 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' is performing a similar trick that Franz Ferdinand pulled off with 'Take Me Out', namely making non-guitar lovers love a song by an indie-guitar band. Let's not forget by the way, that's all Arctic Monkeys are. Unlike say, The Smiths or The Stone Roses, Arctic Monkeys otherwise struggle to outreach their musical limitations. No perfectly realised dance-rock transendence, no such perfect pop-crossover as 'Take Me Out', although the by now omnipresent playing of 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' on radio and television here in the UK probably would be enough to convince non-rock lovers, by sheer dint of repetition. We don't often get a playlisted, proper alternative rock on the radio these days.
The closing track 'A Certain Romance' sounds carefully honed and put together, with lyrics mentioning fashion items, a slow burning tune ending up with a gloriously contained and deliberately melodic rock-noise, beating the better moments of The Strokes, easily. It's just a moment though. Over a whole album, we've a lack of variety and the vocals grate. This isn't a great vocalist, but I suppose he does what he can. The energy in the songs though is absolutely genuine and can't be denied even by the most cynical of listener. 'From The Ritz To The Rubble' is an excellent song, another well built and well constructed song with familiar sounding, very catchy riffs married to these clever Arctic Monkeys lyrics. 'From The Ritz To The Rubble' also has a section, a magical moment, like several other highlights here. The music reaches another level suddenly and the vocalist spits out lyrics and sounds utterly convincing. It's difficult not to get drawn into this albums unrelenting energy and unrelentingly one dimensional attack. That's the problem though. It's typically modern and lacking in genuine depth to the point where it's already difficult to see where else Arctic Monkeys can take their music. Still, there are enough moments here to convince an open-minded listener that yes, there is certainly something worthy and exciting here. A possible great band, although time will of course tell us that in the future. They need to move on and show us other dimensions to their music and grow up with their listeners. The Streets moved on spectuacularly with their second album. Let's see if Arctic Monkeys can do the same.
Brian Tully email@example.com
Hey Denning, your up to your usual Cynical tricks again with this review!! It may not be the Beach Boys but it definitely deserves more than an 8, Wash ur Ears out!!!!
Adam Dobson firstname.lastname@example.org I have to agree with you Adrian, It's good but certainly doesn't justify the hysteria that has built up around it. I'd say it's no better than Babyshambles album and not a patch on Franz Ferdinand's debut. I suppose its the usual case of The Sun championing a band and the people, probably the sort who buy a couple of Cd's per year from Tesco, jumping on the bandwagon. The same thing happened back in '96 when Oasis got the tabloid, thus the everyman, support even though Blur were by far the superior, and more talented, band. I agree that the singer has limited vocals and it will be very interesting to see how they progress on the second album. With the level of fame that has suddenly been forced upon, I suspect it will be about life in the goldfish bowl of fame. I hope so. These tales of life on the seedier, council estate side of life are getting as bit boring. Believe me I've lived.It's not worth celebrating. Overall though I do enjoy the album bar a couple of songs, namel! y "Perhaps Vampires" and "Riot van".
Jayson Colhoun email@example.com You can't hear this but i'm clapping. Finally someone else who can see past the hype. My GOD what is wrong with those people at NME? Are they intentionally aiming to destroy any credibility they have left by going OTT for any new band that comes along. They remind me of that kid at school who used to think he had discovered any new "cool" band in the hope of passing themselves off as a school yard Simon Cowell. Sorry i'm off on one. As a matter of fact this is a good album. Dancing shoes and Red light indicates doors are secure are particular highlights for me. They have a unique and unashamed Urban elequence that most bands who strive for credibility shy away from so bravo for that alone. I bet you look good on the dance floor is superb, however, I think that The Arctic Monkeys may struggle with the follow up. 7 and a half out of 10.
Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org The fact that its the libertines and the streets together is what makes them so good, they have the lyrics about our lifes now as teenagers but with the amazing music of the libertines, I think anyways.
david riley email@example.com well i must say that really is quite a good review you did about the arctic monkeys. although as a really quite obsessed fan i suppose that really i should say things along the lines of 'thier lyrics reach out to people' and their creating a crossover for metal into po' but in all honesty you got it pretty spot on about the bands album. alot of the song are quite samey and it has the same theme running through each song on the album. although personally i havent listened to a single other a;lbum since i bought it, i must say you did an impressive job.
bassplayeredd firstname.lastname@example.org Spot on review here, well maybe 8.5. Anyway yeh pretty solid album only a few weaker tracks. But not anything mind blowingly amazing. I like the lyrics and i think Yorkshire accents work really well in songs.
Anyways doesn't deserve all the hysteria but doesn't deserve being put down without giving it a proper listen.
Markus Maximus email@example.com Hello again Adrian, loved the review. I would give it a high 7 - why? Because I would rather listen to early buzzcocks.
tg01 Lincolnshire I think this album deserves a 9/10. It does not have the complexity or variation to deserve a 10, but is is very good lyrically, and they are good, catchy pop songs. If you like this sort of music, 'Up the Bracket' by The Libertines is a lot more coherant and 'full.'
Favourite Worst Nightmare 8 ( 2007 )
Brianstorm / Teddy Picker / D Is For Dangerous / Balaclava / Fluorescent Adolescent / Only Ones Who Know / Do Me A Favour / This House Is a Circus / If You Were There, Beware / The Bad Thing / Old Yellow Bricks / 505
Well, a second album within a year is a good thing. Most bands these days feel so certain of their fanbase they think they can piss about touring for two or three years inbetween their first and second albums. So, hooray to Arctic Monkeys for that. 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' is more consistent than the debut. Hooray for that. It doesn't contain quite the same highlights but overall it's consolidation rather the evolution. How does a band that only formed because they saw The Strokes play live six years ago evolve anyway? Well, NME in their usual wisdom call this the most anticipated 2nd album since The Stone Roses 'Second Coming'. Erm, it took five years for The Stone Roses to release 'Second Coming' and some eighteen years after their debut, people routinely still call it the greatest debut of all time. Ask me the same question about Arctic Monkeys in 2014 and we'll see if they're still held in such high regard. It's unlikely you see, because whilst The Stone Roses sounded both out of time, timeless and ahead of their time, Arctic Monkeys are merely class of 2006. They are one of around three dozens bands formed in the wake of The Libertines, the truly heroic British band of the noughties.
I wanted to flick through reviews of this album before reviewing it, but apart from NME and Rolling Stone, I couldn't be bothered. Rolling Stone gave this 3.5 out of 5, aware of Arctic Monkeys vocal and musical limitations. NME gave it 9/10 and I stopped reading their review after around the third sentence. They probably went onto call Arctic Monkeys the most important band to come out of England since both Oasis and Joy Division and probably went onto mention The Smiths somewhere in the review too. Interesting thing about Arctic Monkeys though. They can't write actual melodies. Oasis and The Smiths and The Stone Roses clearly could. Arctic Monkeys don't write melodies they write riffs. Whilst competent if not innovative or particularly great riffs are married to fine lyrics and much energy, it's ok. They've made more effort here than they did a mere year ago. The songs sound lived in and a couple even raise the temperature of this weary listener a little. 'Fluorescent Adolescent' is a fine tune for a band that don't write melodies and the singer doesn't sound as crap as he usually does. The closing ballad '505' is possible sign that Arctic Monkeys can go beyond making good albums to making great ones. It's packed full of atmosphere and evocative lyrics and is really rather good indeed.
What else? Well, not a lot, to be honest. 'Brainstorm' the lead single is enough proof on its own of Arctic Monkeys future potential fate. Furiously and exhilarating after a dozen or so listens, more than that and you wish there was more of a melody and more of a beating heart underneath. Still, i'm around the dozen listens to 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' actually and i'm kind enough to give condescendingly Arctic Monkeys another 8/10 and wonder if they'll ever justify even a fraction of their unwarranted hype. Good album though. 8/10? Good album, that's it.
Rob N firstname.lastname@example.org
agreed with all points made. it would be nice to have no hype and let the monkeys do there stuff, but it seems in a recent interview that Alex Turner thrives off the hype.....and also the monkeys wouldnt be here without the hype. Well at least not AS big and that is an atual fact! as great as they are, every band needs a big pushto get their songs into the spotlight. But also agreed with the NMe about it being one of the most anticipated second albums ever, EVERYONE from critics to fans wanted to hear what they had be up to for a year and personally they have wrote some of their best stuff, some different but good stuff and one weak track.
Michael Dallaway email@example.com Come on Adrian. You spend 2/3 of this review slagging off the NME. It's a bit boring. Sure the Arctic Monkeys are overrated, but so is everyone. Nobody could guess from your review that this is a better album than the first.
adam firstname.lastname@example.org Thought you'd give AM's debut cd a 9 or a 10. The first 4 songs are strong with the highlight being 'Fake Tales of San Francisco. 'Still Take you Home' is also good. The middle section is'nt as good but that is more than made up for with the final 3 songs. The instrumental playing is impressive and the lyrics witty & delivered in an infectious northern voice. Considering this was a debut CD from a bunch of teenagers i think it is an impressive peice of work.
Paddy email@example.com the first album is a classic, my favourite album of all! this second one is so close to equaling it but just isnt quite there, but i bloody love it!! 505 is just qualty
McCann firstname.lastname@example.org Come on Adrian, this is a great album, certainly deserves more than 8. You have to give credit to the Arctic Monkeys though, as they, under outragous preasure to live up to their hype, have come back with an even better album than the 1st! Most bands would have shyed away from the recording studio, playing the shit out of their previous album songs on 3 year long tours, for the fear of not being able to follow up. The Arctic Monkeys have came back in just over a year with a brave new-rave/Klaxons thing going on, that must be admired.
Brianstorm is an excellent start to an album, overflowing with energy and drive. Then Fluorescent Adolescent, it's just superb. Do Me A Favour, now that is a tune. It builds up and builds up and then just explodes! "Perhaps fuck off might be too kind! Perhaps fuck off might be too kind!" Old Yellow Bricks is very interesting, totally different to anything on their dubut. it highlights the brave change in style and the strides forward they h! ave made. Finishing up with the brilliant 505 which will go down as a 21st cenuary classic.
Is it their fault that NME are hyping them up to Godly, dare I say Stone Roses satus? No, of course not, in fact the Arctic Monkeys are incredibly quiet and flee from the spot light as much as possible!
Another thing, how the fuck can you say Alex Turners voice is crap?
Humbug 8½ ( 2009 )
My Propeller / Crying Lightning / Dangerous Animals / Secret Door / Potion Approaching / Fire And The Thud / Cornerstone / Dance Little Liar / Pretty Visitors / The Jeweller's Hands
Much has been made in the press of Arctic Monkeys apparently new 'mature' direction. I've read rumours that Arctic Monkeys have turned into a bunch of Black Sabbath t-shirt wearing musos. We've also heard the news that Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age has co-produced this album. 'Humbug' has therefore been met with concern within alternative music circles - have Arctic Monkeys gone on all small mindedly tedious on us?
Well, 'Humbug' doesn't present the same wild abandon of the first two LPs yet the ten tracks here are utterly cohesive and tight. Not tight as in Canadian progressive rock behemoths Rush rather tight compositionally and solid musically. The rhythm section sound particularly strong across the ten tracks here, although the addition of a keyboard/organ sound that invites comparisons with scouse band The Coral inevitably will attract criticism. The Arctic Monkeys of 'Humbug' are darker than The Coral, yet by drawing such comparisons, one may decide that The Coral have better tunes than Arctic Monkeys.
The first single is 'Crying Lightning', which in a neat twist the group have been selling in Oxfam shops on 7" vinyl. The reasoning behind this move may be to generate press yet also may be a little more practical than that - there are more Oxfam shops around than record shops these days, after all. Anyway, I like the lyrics of 'Crying Lightning', they sound good and they intrigue me. This tune is a slow burner rather than an instant indie-disco classic, but it's no worse for being a slow-burner. 'Dangerous Animal' annoys with it's literal spelling out of the song title and opener 'My Propeller' sounds beefy and immense yet also somewhat unfinished.
Alex Turner's crooning makes 'Secret Door' a definite highlight. Perhaps the time he's spent on side-projects working on different types of music has paid off? Perhaps he's been listening to Morrissey lately - there's a definite sense of The Smiths grandeur present that makes 'Secret Door' so special. Here's hoping there's more where this came from in the future. I like 'Humbug' you see, more than I liked either of the previous albums. Where once critics praised the debut Arctic Monkeys album through the roof, they've been moderate in their praise of 'Humbug' because to do otherwise would make them look silly. What, Arctic Monkeys have got better after apparently producing one of the greatest debut albums of all time? Well, they didn't but yes, they've got better anyway.
Nice review. The Arctics are in my opinion the best British band of this decade. Alex has a work ethic that has been virtually unheard of since the time of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and in an age where bands like Franz Ferdinand take an age to release rubbish follow ups, this is so refreshing. I like the Variety here. Tracks like Cornerstone and Secret door recall 60's bands with ease, but they never sound retro like the coral. Always pushing forwards. And the rocking tracks really rock.
Suck It And See 8 ( 2011 )
She's Thunderstorms / Black Treacle / Brick By Brick / The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala / Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair / Library Pictures / All My Own Stunts / Reckless Serenade / Piledriver Waltz / Love Is A Laserquest / Suck It And See / That's Where You're Wrong
It seems not that long ago Arctic Monkeys were barely even starting out, yet here we are with album number four. They continue here with the journey they started on Humbug and a few songs in it becomes clear this joins 'Humbug' in a very similar way album two joined album one in coming from a particular sonic and stylistic place. The newer model Arctic Monkeys seem to have settled in for the long haul, free of the acompanying over-hype of their earlier career. Some fans who lapped up their first couple of albums may well barely even know Arctic Monkeys still exist, such is the fickle nature of fame, but they've clearly decided not to burn out in a brief flurry of zeitgeist and rather explore what they are capable of. Some of the lyrics grate to be frank, 'Love Is A Laserquest' for instance borders on being silly yet it's sung well and with conviction and does 'softer' Arctic Monkeys quite well. 'Brick By Brick' meanwhile borders on proper ROCK music, very hard hitting guitars and gritty vocals as the guitars spiral away amidst particularly pounding bass and drums. A word for the bass guy, he's now integral to the Arctic Monkeys sound, every single track here he provides the main melodic impetus apart from the vocal lines, of course. 'She's Thunderstorms' is a great opener with bass to rival that of The Stone Roses albums, high praise, and the singer comes up with some great, dramatic sounds. As Arctic Monkeys continue getting better in direct contrast to their record sales, it's upsetting to report that 'The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala' is one of the very finest moments, poppy and up their in terms of quality alone with indie-supergods The Smiths.
'Black Treacle' and really all the tracks upto and including the first single 'Don't Sit Down Cause I've Moved Your Chair' are superb, the strongest start to any Arctic Monkeys record. All could be potential singles with 'The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala' being particularly melodic, with strong bass melodies and chiming indie-guitars. As the album progresses, you do wish for more variety, particularly vocally as he's in semi-croon mode throughout. A vocal track by another band-member might be advantageous, to break up the mood? Still, there are a couple of highlights during the second half of the album, most of them propelled by strong bass-melodies, 'Reckless Serenade' for instance. 'Pildriver Waltz' is semi-ballad Arctic Monkeys and rather fine with it's 'You look like you've been to breakfast at the heart-break hotel' refrain. The closing 'That's Where You're Wrong' is Arctic Monkeys by numbers yet does demonstrate why Alex Turner is far less interesting solo. If the rhythm section here hooked up with Ian Brown and John Squire of The Stone Roses you'd have a far better band than if Alex Turner hooked up with The Stone Roses rhythm section. Well, just making a point.
Another good review Mr Adrian,and I'm glad someone else has made The Smiths comparison,I seriouly can't stop listening to the first side of this album! I'm alone amongst my friends in not wanting a return to their early sound and genuinely enjoying watching a band progress properly,like bands used to,as opposed to flogging dead horses. Dwindling sales or not,these guys are still one of the most interesting british bands going,and have done well to survive the uber-hype and meteoric rise to fame! Matt Helders (drummer) sings on Brick by Brick btw, but I agree Alex is in semi-croon mode throughout and thr second half isn't as strong, though overall it's a strong record.
Mybloodyweddingpresent Ireland Good review Adrian, and I agree with most of your points, apart from the measly rating of 8. I've long been a fan of your reviews, but recently I feel you're tending to sit on the fence too much; cautiously awarding most albums between 7 and 8.5. This is the best, most accomplished album the Arctic Monkeys have made and therefore should certainly be rewarded with a higher rating than 8 (personally, I would give it 9 or 9.5). Oh well, I guess its tough to accurately judge the quality album and the legacy (or lack of) which it will leave when you're reviewing only a matter of days after the release. Understandably, you probably want to avoidly looking hyperbolically silly in the long run. I guess what I'm trying to say is, give these guys a break. They are one of the few truly great bands we have these days. Sure, maybe they haven't made a masterpiece like The Stone Roses (yet!!), but 4 albums in still they're getting better. Maybe you could do with shaking loose from your "nostalgic critic" position when reviewing exciting new music like this, and maybe give bands like the Arctic Monkeys a bit more deserved recognition? You know, take off the ol' rose tinted glasses. Just a thought. I really do love your site though, particularly for your reviews of the old stuff, cheers!
William Aber I'm a little bit suprised by this review, I expected you to be bowled over by the second side, what with its beach boys sound. I'm really impressed with the album. Speaking of the beach boys, they put out 9 albums in 3 years. Arctic Monkeys are the only modern band who even come close to that kind of output. in this day and age 4 albums in 5 years (as well as numerous side projects/ ep's/b sides etc) is somthing to behold. I enjoyed the first side of the album, but felt that the silly numbers (dont sit down, brick by brick, library pictures) held it back from being as good as it should have been. The second side is in my opinion much better. I particuarly love Reckless seranade, the harmonious title track, and the stone rosey closer. A mention must also be made of all my own stunts, its a classic track with great backing vocals by Josh Holme.