Sheffield born and bred, Arctic Monkeys have become perhaps the biggest band in the world over the past decade and are now five albums deep into their immensely good discography. The pinnacle of this is their debut album which was released in 2006 and absolutely dominated the indie genre which was booming at that time with bands such as The Kooks and The Libertines at the peaks of their powers. Alex Turner didn’t pick a guitar up until 2001 and this album came from it five years later, that alone is earth-shattering. The band won just about every award going for ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ and went from strength to strength to help model the supergroup they are today, headlining Glastonbury and breaking America. It is the fastest-selling debut album of all time by a band, has gone quintuple platinum and outsold Oasis, not too shabby.
The View From The Afternoon – 10/10
The song which showed us all just how good Matthew Helders is on the drums, it is an absolutely mesmerising and pulsating introduction not only to a song but to an album and it all just clicks, creating an absolute gem and letting us know we are in for something very special with this album. The change-ups of the instrumental are brilliant from start to finish as we get a completely different sound in the verse with this stand alone raw guitar string sound created before the carnage continues again in the chorus which in itself is wonderfully catchy and energetic. Those two words are the perfect way to describe this song, brimming with energy and full of toe-tapping or head-banging possibilities, it’s all personal preference I guess.
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – 10/10
One of the most memorable songs of the 21st century and perhaps one of the best indie rock anthems of all time, this is the tune that gave the world a glimpse of Sheffield’s finest project since Jarvis Cocker and Pulp. The one song that was played at every single party known to man that didn’t involve a dirty drum and bass beat and that is a testament to how good it truly is, everyone loved it and everyone still loves it over 10 years later. A song quite literally about a night on the town, probably about a filthy night in Corporation in Sheffield where everything and everyone looks better through beer goggles and darkened lights. “Just banging tunes and DJ sets” is the most British line you’ll ever hear and probably why so many fell in love with Alex and the boys, they were just normal lads who made it big it’s as simple as that. A tune for the ages and one which will probably go down in British music folklore.
Fake Tales Of San Francisco – 10/10
It is just banger after banger with this album and the freight train doesn’t stop here. Another local anecdote about hitting the town of Sheffield and going to a band night and witnessing fights and tear-ups left, right and centre. Alex Turner takes a bit of a narrator role on this song as he appears to be looking over on the night rather than being a part of it, that is until he jumps in on the highlight of the song, the bridge, where he calls out this bloke who gives it large about his life when he’s “not from New York City” he’s “from Rotherham”, different class. Once again the instrumental is thrashed and separated between chorus and verse and the way it is executed is brilliant once more. Just another huge song that even to this day I sit and listen to regularly, easily one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys songs.
Dancing Shoes – 10/10
Something very very different and unlike anything that was released by an indie band, a dance track that had a seriously hard rock riff, there’s a fine line between crazy and genius but I think these boys have found the balance with this tune. A short and to-the-point- track at just under two and a half minutes but there’s plenty crammed into it for all to enjoy, such as a rocking guitar solo, a cymbal crashing drum beat and a cheeky lyrical showing involving a very iconic line: “get on your dancing shoes you sexy little swine” is as memorable a it gets. Blinder.
You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me – 9/10
First things first, what a song title that is, that’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see on an album by The Smiths with such a long title, but alas this isn’t Morrissey, oh no it is Alex Turner and his local anecdotal nature but we will take that. Even with the cheeky song title and the fast-paced instrumental, you recognise a frailty to Alex Turner and how he felt the same nerves that every lad feels when trying to chat up a girl in a club, talking about his heartbeat and how red his face has gone. It is a very witty song which focuses more on the lyrics than most but the instrumental is still brilliant with it’s progression as the song goes on it feels like it gets quicker. This is another short and snappy song which feels even shorter given the pace of the instrumentation but it is still satirical and above all, great.
Still Take You Home – 9/10
From the outset this song has an infectious sound to it with the guitar riff going on before switching into a more acute sound being played further down the neck and creating a better sound for the verse. Alex’s vocal delivery is VERY Sheffield, more so than on other tracks on the album and I like that, in usual circumstances this song could have been viewed as a bit silly and a bit of fun but with that northern twinge on his vocals it makes it all very relatable and very real. It is the idea of taking girls home for the sake of notching another mark on the bedpost or for bragging with the lads rather than for having genuine affection, not necessarily an opinion Alex himself has agreed with and that’s probably why he made a song about it, calling it out as a typical teenage act. With that being said it is still a fantastic tune and has you hooked on the story of it all.
Riot Van – 10/10
Scrap everything about what has been heard before this song in the track listing, this song blows it away. A stunning acoustic cut about run-ins with the police from the perspective of Alex himself who is clearly scared but going along with the antics in order to impress his mates. It pinpoints an incredible perception and insight into the council estate lifestyles of teenagers in rough areas of the whole country, not just Sheffield. What I love most about the song is the slowed down pace of it, making the whole mood very melancholy to suit the atmosphere surrounding the context of the song. A brilliant change of direction sonically while sticking true to the local anecdotal path they take on the whole album.
Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured – 10/10
These are the famous words you will see etched inside every single taxi in a big city on your way to and from a night out and the song they create from it is just absolutely brilliant, literally a track about planning a night from the minor details of booking taxis:”won’t they let us have six in? If not we’ll have to have two” is just perfect. As is the case with all the songs on this album, the story they tell with the lyrics is absolutely brilliant and scarily accurate of a messy night out, from fights to queuing for cashpoints. I adore this song and think it is so incredibly layered and put together, it is without doubt one of the more under-appreciated songs from this track list.
Mardy Bum – 10/10
A song which has been sung along to thousands of times all over the place and has captured the imaginations of millions in this country with it’s typically British humour as well as the realism within the stresses and strains of young relationships. The acoustic part of it is another way to view this innocence of youth as it clearly wouldn’t suit a hard post-punk instrumental but also because it is such a soft sounding track it follows suit to have a softer sound to this one. Above all it is a lyrically stunning track and it juxtaposes the typical idea you have of an acoustic love song as it uses coarse language as well as being largely informal but that’s the beauty of it, the lower class feel of it all makes it what it is.
Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But… – 9.5/10
Once again a bloody brilliant song title and a classic spin on the teen lifestyle of urban England with the idea of staying out late and not sleeping with all the drugs being taken. Drugs are the forefront of this song’s tale implying that these people have become stale vampires with no other motive than to take these drugs, “I know you’re certain to fail” is an accurate representation of the aspirations of these people. The song itself is fairly advanced in it’s creativity through the use of bongos in the bridge as well as really funky bass riff that you’d expect to hear on a classic Stone Roses tune. The outro is the best aspect of this song without doubt, the guitar solo is brilliant and it is just the way you think the song is over and then you hear that background bellow of “ALL YOU PEOPLE ARE VAMPIRES” and it kicks back in again. Sheer brilliance from the boys.
When The Sun Goes Down – 10/10
That opening sequence is genius, a wonderfully crafted story about a prostitute in desperate need for money and the sleazy people who take advantage of her, particularly the bloke who “told Roxanne to put on her red light” (lovely reference to The Police there). That part of the song is good enough, but what follows is special, truly special. As soon as you hear those words “I said he’s a scumbag don’t you know” it is a guarantee it’s kicking off in full effect. A brilliant instrumental follows with a particularly cymbal favourable drum beat along with a memorable guitar riff which has people from all over the nation chanting it’s tune. Blatantly obvious as to why this one was released as a single as it is such a radio-friendly track while also being absolutely incredible, it is the song that made me fall in love with the band and I have never looked back since.
From The Ritz To The Rubble -9/10
A real bop of a track about a nightclub queue and particularly the dramas of bouncers and the fights they have to deal with. The riff on the chorus of this song is fantastic the way it stagnates from pure energy to nothing each time in instalments is so catchy and clever and my personal highlight of the song, although the bridge is pretty special with that real football hooligan styled chant by the whole band as the song fades to black. It is strange because I love this song but in terms of quality I would probably rank it as the weakest on the album and if I did have to skip one on the track list it would be this but it is still absolutely blinding and luckily for me I don’t have to skip any.
A Certain Romance – 11/10
This song is the closest thing to perfection to have graced my ears in a long long time and in my most humble of opinions, it ranks alongside the likes of ‘Champagne Supernova’ by Oasis and ‘I Am The Resurrection’ by The Stone Roses as one of the best album closers ever to exist. The intro is magical with that pulsating drum beat into a slow fade and a head swaying toe tapper. The very second Alex starts singing the standards raise even higher as he sings about Classic Reeboks and fighting with pool cues in hands, it’s just staggeringly good and relatable to the masses. For me it is the best song they have ever done and ever will do and I say that in confidence because it truly is that good, a modern classic of our time and one which should rank alongside the all-time British great songs. Quick mention of the outro, listen to it. It’ll change your life. That is all.
Overall – 10/10
On ‘Definitely Maybe’ levels for me, it is that good. It is an era defining album in it’s own right as it fought the intense competition of the indie genre and blew them to smithereens, helping Arctic Monkeys headline Glastonbury just a year after this album’s release, something that only, you guessed it, Oasis have achieved before them. The best album of the 21st Century? Maybe. The best indie album? Without question. If only Alex and co. could realise how good they sounded back then and not turn into ego-maniacs with the release of ‘AM’. Don’t get me wrong I love ‘AM’, but it’s not quite this is it.