Following last week's foray into the world of orchestral and easy-listening, it makes sense to move back into the mainstream for Sheffield-based Arctic Monkeys and their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not.
Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not is one of those albums that was curated to suit its generation and every following group of teenagers. That subject matter of clubbing, taxi ranks and audacious flirting is one that's a surefire way to teenagers' hearts, both in 2006 and right up to the present day. It's the youthful exuberance that this record offers that makes it utterly timeless and completely fit for purpose.
As a debut album too, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not was designed to impress and allowed the Monkeys to leave their mark on British music. With all the coverage and critical acclaim that it received, it's certainly easy to see why. The opening View From The Afternoon gave everyone a proper taste of what the band were about straight away, as did lead single I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. As tracks, they're both fast-paced and reckless with a similar vibe to one of the band's key influences The Strokes and 2001's Is This It. Yet, the band's gritty sound manages to fuse with Turner's clever lyrics referencing the likes of Shakespeare to create something completely unique and different to contemporaries such as The Kooks and Franz Ferdinand. It's no wonder that when the track got to No. 1 in the Singles Chart, people were dancing on the pool tables in pubs all across Sheffield.
Those songs about dancing in pubs and clubs such as the raunchy Dancing Shoes and breakneck You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But Your Were Staring Straight At Me are Turner and co.'s bread and butter, as at their core, the songs have a great formula. They're simple and relatable enough to appeal to that mass teenage audience and contain little inflections of linguistic trickery and cultural references to keep you interested. On the latter track, the reference to "Frank Spencer" is a welcome one, referring to classic sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em in the verse. With that, the music behind Turner's heavily accented voice is groovy and punchy, offering hard-hitting riffs and drums to really drive home those messages.
The album's innocence is best explored in its second side,featuring the slower Riot Van and bouncy Mardy Bum. Compared to the earlier tracks present, they're a bit slower, but offer something that everyone can get behind. Mardy Bum especially portrays this innocence, with a youthful relationship, complete with petty argument, all condensed into a track that's just under three minutes in length - it's like a Slide Away perfect for the noughties. With it also comes some really nice contrast, with a pretty and bubblegum guitar riff contrasted with some argumentative lyrics. This one overall is a fan-favourite and it's really easy to see why, with that contrast characterising the song's brilliance perfectly.
Towards its back-end, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not retains its ballsy and hard-hitting nature, with tracks based around both prostitution and bar fights. The former When The Sun Goes Down is framed by light, harmless spoken-word pieces, before jumping into a gritty wall of sound, complete with harsh drums and guitar riffs. It's a track best-reserved for the Monkeys' marvellous live performances and is a song fit for an arena singalong. The following From The Ritz To The Rubble extends this hard-hitting feeling in a more physical sense with something even faster and more up-tempo with a brilliant spoken-word opening as this song's standout feature. With its fast drums, groovy bass and Turner's seething vocal, From The Ritz To The Rubble is one of this record's real standout moments and is a song that allows the Monkeys to be let loose and go wild.
The closing A Certain Romance is always touted as being one of the best album closers in British music, and to be honest, it's as clear as day as soon as the song's signature drums start. It encompasses everything the band's sound stands for, with some lighter drums, bass and guitar riffs, complete with a higher Turner vocal that's then beautifully contrasted with lyrics about "kids who like to scrap with pool cues in their hands.". As a song, it sums up what the band are about and the subject matter of this record, and marks the end of a night out in Sheffield, with the closing instrumental allowing the band to let off a bit of steam and wind down to the end of the night at the Leadmill or the Boardwalk, just when everyone's beginning to go home after one of their most memorable times out on the town.
Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not really is one of the best and most timeless albums of its generation. That combination of frank and blunt songwriting, harsh instrumentals and a relatable subject matter makes it one of the standouts of the last two decades and introduced the world to one of Britain's most-loved and admired musical exports.
If you want to pick up a copy, I'll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/39BLMyB
Or if you'd prefer, here's a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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