Real-Time Review: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Arctic Monkeys)

by thethreepennyguignol

View from the Afternoon: I think an opening track should be a mission statement for the rest of the album, and this does the job nicely. Displaying an astounding amount of verbosity from a 20-year-old (FUCKING TWENTY!) Alex Turner, it’s a thumping, raw, imperfect and pissy mix of adulation and disgust for British nightlife.

I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor: By far the tightest track on the album, the lead single was suitably pared down into an intensely catchy, syncopated piece of indie pop. It does jar a little, with all the rough edges smoothed down and a naughty edge that doesn’t quite fit with the nervousness and uncertainty that clouds the rest of the album’s sexual references.

Fake Tales of San Franciso: Now, this is a song that I don’t really get. Lyrically? Undeniably genius. But musically? It leaves me basically cold; in fact, I’d consider this one of the worst songs Arctic Monkeys have produced in their entire run. A suitably drunken-sounding Turner can’t quite hold together a slightly messy and disconnected mesh of guitar riffs and uncertain tilts between verse and chorus.

Dancing Shoes: A vast improvement from the wobbles of the last two songs, this irrefutably confident and assuredly sleazy ballad of picking up birds in a nightclub. A practically pornographic bassline ties in perfectly with an increasingly frantic build-up that slams into a wall and stops after two and a half minutes.

You probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me: Almost a sequel to Dancing Shoes, Lights keeps up the energy in a basically generic wail about a sweaty-palmed suitor making the moves on his woman. It passes muster mostly because it’s short and sweet, throws in a few references to 20th-Century British pop culture, and is instantly relatable.

Still Take You Home: Of the mid-point trio of songs about sex, this is by far my favorite. Okay, so it’s not bringing a huge amount of new stuff to the table, but something about the viscous, self-deprecating nature of this makes it work. Frantic guitar work and balls-to-the-wall confidence combined with a brilliant bridge and a proper guitar solo sell it.

Riot Van: Almost contrary to Fake Tales, this is one song that I love which seems to be considered a particularly weak foray. It’s totally different, yes, but to it’s credit-an almost murmuring Turner slurringly emotes over a barely-there accompaniment. It’s a pleasant rest from the crawing energy of the rest of the album, while successfully holding onto a sense of humour and wit. A highlight.

Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure: Snapping right back onto form, AM plunges into an almost stream-of-consciousness song that practically pops out the speakers. Tight, incredibly funny and one of the most re-listeneable tracks on the whole album.

Mardy Bum: Before Arctic Monkeys did love songs, they did Mardy Bum. A lighter, more syncopated track that reflects some of the paths they’d go on to take for the second album, this bittersweet number works beautifully as a single and as part of the whole album.

Perhaps Vampire’s A Bit Strong But…: Now, this song defines the album better than any other for me. There are many good things about it-the spiky edges, the rallying vocals, the unrelenting attack-and several bad things- a weird structure that doesn’t really work, the overlong second half. But there’s a real charm here, a real sense of genuine emotion and lack of outside fuckery with the actual music which allows you to ignore the weak spots. And that’s what makes Vampires a bloody good one.

When The Sun Goes Down (Scummy Man): An almost mournful Alex sings the opening for this superb bit of balladry in the basement of a shit pub in Northampton (in my head). Launching into a perfectly put-together slice of angry rock, it’s one of the better showcases for how well the band could work together when they put their minds to it.

From Ritz to Rubble: Of the excellent second half of this album, Ritz is the only song that falls flat for me. A promising start winds up trailing off into a repetitive and kind of uninteresting second half. Big fat average.

A Certain Romance: Ah, what to say about this song? Perfect. Negating all the cynicism of the album, it’s a beautifully paced, thrilling salute to old friends and getting by.


Album Rating: 8/10

Best Songs: A Certain Romance, Scummy Man, Riot Van

Worst Songs: You probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me, Fake Tales of San Franciso

In a Sentence: A patchy but ultimately triumphant debut for indie monarchy Arctic Monkeys is elevated by Turner’s scintillating presence and lyrics.