Whatever We Say About Them
That’s what the Arctic Monkeys are not
BY CHUCK ADAMS
British bands have a knack for superfluous assertions: We are the champions! I’m afraid of Americans! All you need is love! And so, it appears, do their country’s press outlets. After the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, shot to number one on the U.K. charts last year, the British press proclaimed the four lads from working class Sheffield “bonafide rockstars,” and NME magazine quickly dubbed their debut as the “5th greatest British album of all time.” Tellingly, when the New York Times called them “one of the most exciting bands on the planet,” the paper was making a sly jab at the hyperbole spouting from across the pond.
|Arctic Monkeys, The Coral. 9 pm Friday, Sept. 28. McDonald Theatre. $22 adv., $25 door.|
The real story, and why Arctic Monkeys will be remembered in the annals of rock history (yes, even alongside The Beatles), is that mainstream media outlets finally recognized the power of online file sharing and good music’s knack for spreading like wildfire (if encouraged) as a marketing tool. The songs on Whatever had been floating around on burned CDs and fans’ hard drives for months before the release, and people still paid money for the album! Given the hostility shown by the record companies toward bootlegging, it was a kick to the crotch for the business suits.
But now that everyone is (finally) awake and has pontificated on the Arctic Monkeys’ meteoric rise to fame and fortune, it turns out that musically the band is just, oh, you know, real fucking good. And now, with their sophomore effort, Favourite Worst Nightmare, picking up critical steam (Pitchfork gave it a 7.4 out of 10, the same as Whatever), the world will have to stand up and listen.
What the world might hear are four lads who have done their homework, know their music history and still churn out their own brand of English punk pop. Drummer Matt Helders keeps the songs humming along thanks to his steady tom-tom thumping; lead vocalist Alex Turner holds his own with internal rhymes and metered lyrics fleshing out the songs with lines like “You are the fugitive / But you don’t know what you’re runnin’ from.” And they’re even capable of slow, earnest dance numbers like “Only Ones Who Know.”
On Nightmare, the lyrics lean toward a response to the media circus that has enveloped the band members (original bassist Andy Nicholson has already succumbed). In “Teddy Picker,” Turner turns on the cynical press with lines like “Despair to the point where they provoke / You to tell the fucking punchline before you have told the joke / Sorry, sunshine, it doesn’t exist / It wasn’t in the top 100 list” — all delivered over a staccato bass beat, of course.
Rolling Stone said it best when they wrote that Nightmare “sounds confident, unlabored and just plain good — English cool without English bullshit.” At Friday’s show, don’t expect the Rolling Stones’ bravado, David Bowie’s glam, Oasis’ immaturity or The Libertines’ pretentiousness. Just expect to move. Then go home and write “best concert ever” on the Monkey’s MySpace page.