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Arctic Monkeys Get One and a Half Opposable Thumbs Up

Posted by July 15th, 2007 No Comments »

arctic_monkeysWhat seems to have happened with this band is that the initial skepticism that comes with a first outing on a major label actually gave way to mass enthusiasm. As often happens, this was followed by a backlash once their popularity grew. You can probably thank the Brits for both types of hyperbole. What the Arctic Monkeys do shouldn’t be judged in terms of innovation — they combine Strokesy nu-garage with Franzy nu-wave and some good old-fashioned ’90s style Britpop — but rather in terms of songwriting.

Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

arctic_monkeysWhat seems to have happened with this band is that the initial skepticism that comes with a first outing on a major label actually gave way to mass enthusiasm. As often happens, this was followed by a backlash once their popularity grew. You can probably thank the Brits for both types of hyperbole. What the Arctic Monkeys do shouldn’t be judged in terms of innovation — they combine Strokesy nu-garage with Franzy nu-wave and some good old-fashioned ’90s style Britpop — but rather in terms of songwriting.  

As their breakthrough hit “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor” shows, they certainly know their way around a riff spry enough to be indie, but hefty enough to be rock and roll. And we’re not talking about a club, or a square dance here — this is the type of dancing that falls somewhere between new-wave arm flailing and full-on arena mosh (which, ironically, requires far less intensity than small-club mosh). Album opener “The View From the Afternoon” strikes a back-and-forth riff that tricks you the first couple of times you hear it. And the call-and-response on “Fake Tales of San Francisco” is extremely catchy, but not too catchy for credibility. Where the album both derives its greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses is in lead vocalist Alex Turner’s lyrics. He’s got quite the tongue on him, and can turn a phrase in ways both clever and insightful, but for the most part his observations center on the young and hip hooking up in bars or on dancefloors (natch). We don’t even get relationship drama here. This is all about sexual tension shooting across crowded rooms, and while the music isn’t particularly sexy, it’ll do. Thing is, this is a topic that wears itself thin over thirteen tracks. By “When the Sun Goes Down” and “A Certain Romance,” we’re glad he’s talking about something else for once. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with half-lurid, half-lamenting tirades on the etiquette of the young and sexually free, these lyrics don’t exactly transcend their subject matter. The Arctic Monkeys are likable and sport some nice rock’n’roll chops, for sure. This is definitely better than the last Franz Ferdinand album. But ’til Turner turns his attentions to a wider variety of topics, that’s all it’ll be. – (6.5/10)


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