Fluorescent Adolescents: An Arctic Monkeys Retrospective
Regarded as one of Britain’s most loved indie rock bands, Arctic Monkeys have a spirit and sound that sets them apart. Their cheeky and emotionally-attuned explorations of life, the energy of the band’s percussion and guitar riffs and the sheer artistry of the band’s frontman, Alex Turner, have all been an absolute treat for fans far and wide. I am certainly not alone in thinking that a new release is long overdue. With their new album set to release in the next few months (about time!), let me take you through my favourite tracks by the Sheffield icons.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
Arctic Monkeys’ debut album was inspired by the daily lives of the band’s members. The album is one massive night out and more! Also, it is the fastest selling debut-album in British-chart history.
“I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” is a catchy and energetic tune about a standard night out when you’re on the pull (or apparently not). This track is a beautiful introduction to the band’s energy and craft when presenting jovial chaos with a quick tempo!
“I said I bet that you look good on the dance floor
Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984
Before we get to the next track, look how young they all were! Awww!
“Mardy Bum” is my favourite song from their debut album. It is the song about a couple’s tiff and reminiscing about the times when his girl was not so moody and argumentative. This is where we also see how brilliant Arctic Monkeys are at writing about relationships in a really playful, cheeky manner. At Glastonbury 2013, the band performed a stellar orchestrated version of the song and you can check that out here.
“I see your frown, and it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun and it goes off”
Honourable mentions: The singles of 2006
“They’ve got engaged, no intention of a wedding. He’s pinched your bird, and he’d probably kick your head in.”
“Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts” is a cheeky song about the current life of an ex-flame. It also touches on the sadness felt by Turner when her current partner is described as fitter and able to give him a good kicking!
“Despair in the Departure Lounge” is undoubtedly underrated. This rather sad song tells of the loneliness felt by the protagonist and his overall sense of emptiness about the loss of love. Also, it goes without saying that Alex Turner’s voice is iconic!
“There might be tellys in the back of the seats in front / But Del and Rodney won’t do / Although it might take your mind off the aches and the pains / Laugh when he falls through the bar, but you’re feeling the same / ‘Cause she ain’t there to hold your hand, She won’t be waiting for you when you land.”
Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
After the record-breaking success of their debut album, Arctic Monkeys released Favourite Worst Nightmare – their loudest, chaotic and meanest-sounding album.
“And even if somebody could have shown you the place you wanted. Well, I’m sure you could have made it that bit better on your own.”
However, Favourite Worst Nightmare also enabled listeners to hear the emotional side of Arctic Monkeys, and “Only Ones Who Know” was a clear example of that emotional pondering.
“Oh, the boy’s a slag, the best you ever had. The best you ever had is just a memory and those dreams…”
“Fluorescent Adolescent” is my favourite track from Favourite Worst Nightmare! This track (with a cracking name) is utterly bittersweet, looking back to the “good old days” when life was frivolous and fun. Subsequently, you then hear about the eventual blandness of life as a proper grown up. It’s very cheeky and has all the staples of the band’s view of being young and spirited. Also, Richard Ayoade directed the music video! That’s not all, he has also directed videos for Kasabian. He just gets cooler by the minute! If you want to see loads of clowns having a punch up, then this is the video for you.
Humbug is seen as an experimental album which inspired their later style. Apart from the new guitar styles they adopted, the band experimented with new instruments such as slide guitars, xylophones and shakers. In an interview for the BBC’s The Culture Show, Alex Turner and Matt Helders stated that the album’s overall sound was partly inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Nick Cave and The Beatles. The tempo and patterns of “Crying Lightening” are brilliant, and its drums are absolutely wonderful!
“Cornerstone” is a slightly deranged song about chasing after girls that look like your ex. He does do better with each girl though, and even finds one girl (his ex’s sister!), who lets him call her by the name of his ex! Richard Ayoade sits in the director’s chair once again for “Cornerstone”, which portrays Alex Turner performing the song on his own. Did Alex Turner ever get with his ex’s sister? I guess we will never know…
“Tell me where’s your hiding place, I’m worried I’ll forget your face. And I’ve asked everyone, I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along.”
Suck it and See (2011)
In comparison to those released previously, Suck it and See is blissfully mellow. The album’s title was not particularly welcomed by censors in the US, where large stickers were placed over the album’s name.
“Somebody told the stars you’re not coming out tonight
And so they found a place to hide.”
“Black Treacle” is my favourite track from Suck it and See. It is fun and has some catchy guitar riffs! Also, the lyrics are quite relatable at times. Ever felt as out of place as the Sundance Kid would be behind a synthesiser? Yeah, same.
“And I tried last night to pack away a laugh
Like a key under the mat
But it never seems to be there when you want it.”
“She’s Thunderstorms” is a wonderful song about a girl who is as cool as a thunderstorm. Its quick drums, The Smiths-esque vocals and melodic guitar makes this track a lovely listen!
“Suck it and See” is a great love song with a distinctive Beach Boys sound. The lyrics of this song are brilliant as well.
“I poured my aching heart into a pop song
I couldn’t get the hang of poetry.”
In 2013, NME regarded AM as the best album of the year. It was also the album to break another record for the band: the first independent label-band to have their first 5 albums reach number 1! Don’t think it can get any cooler? AM also helped the band finally break into the US charts. Along with Humbug, this brilliant album is one of my favourites from the band. Though I do say that about most of their music… Surely other fans can empathise, right? They’re that cool!
“Do I Wanna Know?” is the most commercially successful track from the album and (of course) my favourite. Its blues and psychedelic rock elements make it particularly hypnotic. This track is all about obsessing over someone and wondering if they feel the same way about you – we’ve all been there! Seriously eh, trust the Arctic Monkeys to be really personal time and time again.
“…when she needs to shelter from reality she takes a dip in my daydreams.”
“Arabella” is very reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. The guitar riffs and vocals of this throwback beautifully echo that iconic hard rock sound.
“Arabella’s got a seventies head
But she’s a modern lover
It’s an exploration, she’s made of outer space
And her lips are like the galaxy’s edge
And her kiss the colour of a constellation falling into place.”
“Snap Out Of It” is very upbeat and catchy! The vocal fluctuations are really cool, though the high pitch sections are a lot harder to imitate with my limited vocal range!
That’s a wrap! I can’t wait to hear their upcoming album (rumours say May?), and you can be sure to find its review on the site soon after release. Can’t wait until then? You can do what I just did and listen to all of the band’s music again. It never gets old!
From Sophia with Love x
P.S. For this week’s FSWL music round-up (which included Elbow, Ed Sheeran and The Jam), click here.