Ten years ago, the Arctic Monkeys released their critically acclaimed debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. To think it was a decade since we first heard the heavy Yorkshire accent of Alex Turner as he said, ‘the proof that love’s not only blind, but deaf’ is insane. It’s gone so quickly. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go into the history of my second favourite band of all-time on their big anniversary.
Early 2006 saw all sorts of indie music up and down the charts as The Fratellis, Razorlight, Kasabian and Franz Ferdinand were all massive at a time when we’d just come out of an era that had seen *shudder* The Cheeky Girls and Blue. This kind of jangling, melodic guitar rock had to fill the void left by Britpop a decade earlier, and the Monkeys were at the forefront of the indie onslaught. They were not just different to their contemporaries lyrically, but the band members each had an unfabricated personality. The Sheffield four-piece were quietly cool, musically efficient, and had one of the finest lyricists of this, or any, generation – Alexander David Turner.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK7egZaT3hs]
My totally platonic love affair with my namesake started when he opened his Northern gob and belted out ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. Well, cheers, Alex lad, I bet we all do. An impressionable twelve year old not too far away from Sheffield had an indie idol that delved into the depths of depravity to preach that ‘all you people are vampires’ and ‘someone at the side paid for her Smirnoff Ice and I’m stuck with a tropical Reef’.
This was the first time in my life I felt that lyrics and poetry were more than just some old codger singing about being dumped at Cleethorpes Pier in the sixties or some jealous bird that had loved and lost in perennially tragic circumstances. Having grown up to a soundtrack of Led Zeppelin and Meat Loaf from my dad, I was well versed in rock’n’roll lore and that is exactly what the Arctics were to me. A folkloric foursome that took the country by storm with their electric indie and intricate lyrics – ‘there’s only music so that there’s new ringtones/it don’t take no Sherlock Holmes/to see it’s a little different around here’.
Alongside the lyrical lothario was the band. Let’s just clarify that Alex Turner is part of the band, he is NOT the band. The rhythm guitar and rollicking riffs of Jamie Cook, the thrumming drumming of Matthew Helders and the banging bass of Andy Nicholson, soon to be replaced by Nick O’Malley to make up the line-up of the last nine years. A year after their debut album (the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history) saw the release of Favourite Worst Nightmare, a loud and fast follow up to the phenomenal success of their first. The howl of ‘Brianstorm’ to the psychedelic psychosis-inducing side order of ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’, the album was VERY good. And how many bands can say they released two 10/10 albums and played a headline slot at Glastonbury Festival within two years of hitting the mainstream? While the Monkeys star continued to soar, others fell by the wayside. The cut-throat music business no longer wanted gimmicky, indie bands – all copy-and-paste guitar anthems and a host of white t-shirted, lacquered haired youths – they needed change. They needed less of the attitude and more of the attributes.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ma9I9VBKPiw]
Then came the departure album, Humbug, a darker, rootsy combination of cryptic lyrics and heavily-produced effects. Humbug has always been seen, quite wrongly in my opinion, as the black sheep of the Monkeys’ discography. Originally, the band said they wrote songs describing the world going on around them, hence fake tales of San Francisco and getting on your dancing shoes, but now they needed to tap into the creative energy flow and let its full-moon musical maturity pour out. That’s what Humbug is. The culmination of four years as ‘the saviours of British music’, a change in style and an addition of talented substance to go with the raw enthusiasm and optimism of youth.
At first, the band were bemoaning ‘t-shirt and tie combinations’ and now they were crying lightning, their meteoric rise through the echelons of stardom saw 2011’s release of their fourth number one album Suck it And See. From a personal point of view, I took the plunge and will forever have the titular lyrics to ‘If You Were There, Beware’ on my body after the urge to get a permanent tribute to the band became too strong and I went under the needle. Suck it And See was more than just poetic heartache turned into tunes, it encompassed abstract lyrics with catchy melodies and stomach-churning slushiness. It was obviously Turner’s reaction to the end of his relationship with girlfriend Alexa Chung. Alex and Alexa? Was never gonna work out, that.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpOSxM0rNPM]
This brings us onto our most recent release, the raunchy, rock and roll ride that is AM. Its simplistic title belies the treasure trove of pleasure and prose that lurks within its unassuming all-black cover design. The slow-burning ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ has, arguably, become the band’s biggest hit while my personal odyssey into the realms of fandom reached its highest point in May 2014. Finally, after eight years of buying the albums, learning the words and being the ultimate fan, I witnessed the stunning spectacle of the Arctic Monkeys live at Finsbury Park on the 23rd of May. If that gig represents the peak of my fellowship in being the fan, then I’ll die a happy man.
Oh yeah, can we have a new album please? It’s been nearly three years since AM and we’re starting to get restless. After all, ‘anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment.’
Are you an Arctic Monkeys fan? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!