CD Review of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not by Arctic Monkeys

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Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
starstarstarstarhalf star Label: Domino
Released: 2006
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The Arctic Monkeys are, in a word, a phenomenon.

It doesn’t even do them justice for me to simply recycle the “next big thing, according to the British music press” line for the umpteenth time – even though lord knows I enjoy it so much – because their accomplishments transcend the use of that hackneyed joke. In a year’s time, they managed to record demos, use the promotional power of the internet to create a crazed fanbase before they’d actually released an album or played more than a few live shows, and, when they finally did get an album into stores, it sold 118,501 copies the first week, making it the fastest-selling debut album in British history.

Yes, but then, these are the same people who put Crazy Frog’s cover of “Axel F” at the top of the charts, so there’s a valid question to be asked: is it actually any good?

The answer: absolutely.

It’ll never translate to American audiences, of course, because it’s so definitively British...only the purest Anglophile will have any idea what the band’s on about when, in “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights, but You Were Looking Straight at Me,” they sing of how they “could all go a bit Frank Spencer”...but it’s a fantastic album nonetheless. Imagine an amalgam of Oasis’s Definitely Maybe and the Strokes’ Is This It, with lyrical references to the Police (“And I've seen him with girls of the night / And he told Roxanne to put on her red light”) and Duran Duran (“Your name isn’t Rio / But I don’t care for sand”), and you’ve got...well, you’ve got no real idea at all what it sounds like, actually. But it’s full of lots of dance beats, rock riffs, and lead singer Alex Turner provides us with one of the heavier British-accented singing voices since the Gallagher brothers made the scene. The singles “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down” have both been chart toppers in the UK, but, additionally, pounding numbers like “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Sealed,” “Still Take You Home,” and “Dancing Shoes” will get heads banging and feet tapping in any country. The ubiquitous Gang of Four-styled bass work that all the kids are using these days is plentiful here, but there’s little else in the way of ripping off GO4, so it’s forgivable.

Given all the hype surrounding the Arctic Monkeys, there’s no reason to suspect that the band has anything resembling a proper sophomore album anywhere up their collective sleeves, but that’s hardly the point; what comes next should be of little or no concern. What we have here is an album which will be listed by future generations alongside Blur’s Parklife and the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society as a definitively British album. They’ll probably never top it, but they don’t have to; their position in music history is secured either way.

~Will Harris