In 2006, Arctic Monkeys emerged from Sheffield, UK as the hottest band on the music scene with their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Featuring the single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, they attacked the English charts and made quite an impact here in the states.
The band released Favourite Worst Nightmare in 2007, receiving more critical acclaim while expanding their fan base. Deciding to head in a new direction, they tabbed Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme to produce their third record, Humbug, which hit stores in 2009.
This last album took a darker and more experimental turn, and pushed many fans away. The Monkeys’ fourth effort, Suck It and See, will be available on June 6, and the young rockers will be tearing up First Avenue in Minneapolis this Saturday, May 28. I’ll be in attendance, but I decided I needed to hash out my 10 favorite tracks from the Sheffield boys before they destroy the mainroom.
Honorable Mentions: “Cornerstone”, “A Certain Romance”
10. “The View From the Afternoon” – Whatever People Say I Am…
“Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment.” The first words on the first Monkeys album are a nice bit of advice by way of forewarning. Be careful before you try to listen closely to all of the lyrics, though: you might get your ears blown off at any time by the staccato’d guitars.
9. “Teddy Picker” – Favourite Worst Nightmare
At the end of this tasty rocker, frontman Alex Turner incredulously spouts out my favorite line of his: “Who’d want to be man of the people when there’s people like you?” This caps off the listener’s mental picture of Teddy Picker, who apparently is the world’s biggest douche bag.
8. “Mardy Bum” – Whatever People Say I Am…
A nice little ditty about the English version of Jack and Diane—if Jack worked a 9-to-5 and Diane was a total bitch. When Turner says peering into his lover’s eyes is like “looking down the barrel of a gun”, you know these two have some serious issues to sort out.
7. “505” – Favourite Worst Nightmare
Perhaps the antithesis of the song above, “505” is Turner’s roundabout way of saying “I love you.” Fitted with a nice breakdown in the latter part of the track, this tune sends the band’s second album out with a bang after beginning with a slow flourish of echoing guitars.
6. “Brianstorm” – Favourite Worst Nightmare
Turner paints a picture of yet another subject, “Brian”, who’s “t-shirt and tie combination” are apparently a sight to behold. Perhaps the Arctic Monkeys’ biggest rocker, it’s extremely hard not to bob your head and shake your moneymaker during this tune.
5. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” – Whatever People Say I Am…
The Monkeys introduced themselves to the world with this song, and it shot all the way up to #1 on the UK charts upon its release. “Stop making the eyes at me, I’ll stop making the eyes at you,” Turner implores, but in 2006, nobody could take their gaze off the new British sensations.
4. “Fake Tales of San Francisco” – Whatever People Say I Am…
Loosely based on some heated feelings towards a band at the bar, Turner’s jam takes aim at the dumbasses who need to “get off the bandwagon” and “put down the handbook.” The highlight is the continual addition of more guitars at the end of the song, creating a walloping wall of power chords.
3. “Crying Lightning” – Humbug
An ominous-sounding story of a young boy and girl playing a game called “crying lightning”, this QOTSA-inspired jam features a heavy bass line throughout and a quick but spirited guitar solo to break the tension. The perfect soundtrack for a Sunday drive into Hell.
2. “When the Sun Goes Down” – Whatever People Say I Am…
Yet another narrative based on a shady character, Turner sets his sights on a pimp who drives a Ford Mondeo and whose story “changes when the sun goes down.” The slightly serious song is given a chipper boost with Turner’s classic line about a prostitute: “She don’t do major credit cards, I doubt she does receipts.”
1. “Fluorescent Adolescent” – Favourite Worst Nightmare
The weird thing about Turner is that when he writes a song about a nostalgic middle-aged woman with an evaporating sex life, it just sounds natural. “The best you’ve ever had is just a memory,” he laments, and it sounds as if he would sacrifice himself if it meant this woman could have one more night back “when the boys were all electric.”