CD Review of Favourite Worst Nightmare by Arctic Monkeys

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Favourite Worst Nightmare
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Domino
Released: 2007
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…and the phenomenon rages on.

If there’s one thing to be said for the Arctic Monkeys, it’s that they didn’t just sit around and coast on the mind-boggling success of their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. If the band was confronted with that oft-spoken, terrifyingly accurate statement that “you’ve got a lifetime to write your first album, but only a few months to write the follow-up,” they apparently didn’t find themselves the least bit intimidated by it; not only did they get right back into songwriting mode and put together an entire new album’s worth of songs, but they even managed to get it into stores just slightly over a year after their debut.

Best of all, though, is the simple fact that Favourite Worst Nightmare (and, oh, how my poor American spellcheck hates to see that “U” in there) is easily just as enjoyable an album as its predecessor.

Leading off with the album’s first single, “Brianstorm,” is a wise move, grabbing the listener by the throat from the get-go, but as the album moves into the second track, “Teddy Picker,” there’s already a bit of concern that, although things sound great, they sound just a little too similar to the last disc, even down to the Duran Duran references. (Remember that reference to “Rio” on “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor”? “Teddy Picker” drops the line, “I don’t want your prayer / Save it for the morning after.”) Still, similar or not, it’s already undeniable that the band’s enthusiasm is unflagging, and after “D is for Dangerous,” the sound begins to expand somewhat.

“Balaclava” is probably the first moment where you realize that the band’s learned a few tricks. With a bass line occasionally reminiscent of War’s “Low Rider,” the song may or may not be about a rapist, given that a balaclava is a ski-mask and the vaguely frightening lyrics find Alex Turner singing “It’s more a question of feeling / Than it is a question of fun,” adding, “I’m sure you’ll baffle ‘em good / With the ending reek of salty cheeks / And runny make-up alone.” “Fluorescent Adolescent” has rather a ska feel at times, and “Only Ones Who Knew” is a sparse acoustic ballad, but it’s followed by “Do Me a Favour,” which has pounding drums galore and a great chorus. As the album progresses, it’s back to more songs that further mine the sound of the debut – particular highlights of the second half include “Do the Bad Thing” and the last two songs, “Old Yellow Bricks” and “505” – but by then you’ve begun to realize that that’s just the sound of the Arctic Monkeys, period.

Unsurprisingly, their fans in the UK have already responded exuberantly to the new album; 85,000 copies of Favourite Worst Nightmare were sold on the first day alone and, as of this writing, the prediction is that the final first-week sales tally will hover in the 250,000 vicinity. Not too shabby, that. And what, pray tell, will the folks here in the States say? Ah, the Arctic Monkeys probably don’t give a shite, really, nor should they. After all, they’ve beaten the sophomore slump in their homeland and produced a second album that’s as just good as their first; when you’ve got those things, who cares what America thinks? 

~Will Harris