Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Arctic Monkeys' Favourite Worst Nightmare

Arctic Monkeys- Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino Records, released 4-24)

Before I get started here, let me get all these cliches associated with this album out in the open and expand upon them briefly: highly anticipated (debut album sells more in its first week than both Oasis and the Beatles, so obviously, yes; highly anticipated), sophomore jinx (this is the term that writers apply to a band's second album, hoping they fail miserably so they can be the first to say "I told you so...", like these assholes), they sold out (every fucking venue in every fucking city they play) and et cetera and so on. You can insert your favorite (American spelling) cliche here: ________________________________.

Arctic Monkeys conventional wisdom cliche: English guitar rock that's danceable.

Yes, and this is the follow-up that Bloc Party should've made this year, but alas; Arctic Monkeys is the band with big enough balls to actually expand on their sound and take it a bit further, not go into unchartered territory and get all "accessible" on me. The songs on Favourite Worst Nightmare fit that same vibe: the downtrodden young Brit, soiled apron, walking home in the rain: here's to you, keep your head up, never let those bastards get you down!

The thing I love about Arctic Monkeys is their unabashed love for (and what I see as an unwavering devotion to) the plight of the English working class- more specifically, the 18-to-24 set that didn't go off to university, the kids who stayed at home to work a shitty grocery-bagging job and live in mum's flat in Lancashire- the "new" working class. Maybe that's why they have gone absolutely ape-shit for the Monkeys across the pond; like hip-hop here in the states, they've become the voice of their respective generation. Nothing like starting off life knowing that you're fucked for all eternity, the Monkeys are the soundtrack to that ennui, that "spend your whole week's cheque at the pub on a Saturday, maybe mosh a bit, maybe meet a lovely little Emma, take her home, blacked-out, and do it all over again next week", the bleak view afforded to too many youngsters whether it be here or in jolly old England.

Sociological ramifications aside, the songs here are relatively cohesive, as in: now that we're more popular than the prime minister, what do we do with all this (perceived) power? Put it into our music, as the grinding and churning opener Brianstorm presents. It's a bit different stylistically, a bit grungier and grimier, but there's a bit of raw power here, and suffice it to say it does the lads well. That's right, it's Brian-storm, as the song follows this twit named Brian through a series of his trials, being such an awesome guy that he is, such a righteous innovator, what with his t-shirts and ties combo. Then there's Teddy Picker, Brit-slang for a whore? I don't know, so have a look at the lyrics and you decide: "...and it's the thousandth time that it's even bolder / don't be surprised when you get bent over / they told ya / but you were gagging for it / Let's have a game on the teddy picker / not quick enough can I have it quicker? / already thick, can you get in quicker?" All that Cockney and slang aside, it's pretty much exactly what I'd expect, nay- what I would want to hear from the Monkeys.

D Is For Dangerous, Balaclava and Fluorescent Adolescent all contend for the best track on the album, and it's that last track that'll probably be the one that turns the most heads. Done in the ska stylings of Mardy Bum, the debut album's most accessible track, I can see this taking over Indie rock playlists for the months of May and June. Only One Who Knows, lead singer Alex Turner's vocals are run through a roto-leslie effect, giving it a mild but effective "other-worldly" feel, as if he's the only one who really knows. Do Me A Favour (Anglo-centric spelling here, love it!) has a nice little faux-surf guitar riff in it and a stacatto-laden bridge worthy of a pub-stomping. This House Is A Circus, a Police-esque tune that meets a Pixies-type rocker, where drummer Matt Helders' work is impressive, but not worthy of a Stewart Copeland comparison just yet. If You Were There, Beware is a certified banger, and chills itself into a megaphone & circus organ bridge, which both showcases the band's musical ability and serves to further creep me out.

The Bad Thing, the one "throw-away" track on here, confuses me as to why it would work here- maybe it would've been better towards the front of the tracklist. But it's here, and sometimes these questions are best left to the album's producer. Old Yellow Bricks, possibly an ode to dead English towns- "She said I want to sleep in the city that never wakes up / and revel in nostalgia". Another reason I love the English; it's that melancholy feeling that's directly tied into the failings of imperialism. Imagine sitting in a classroom, somewhere in Great Britain, learning that at one time "the sun never sets on the Queen's empire", and then to keep reading your history book to find that now, it's America who "owns" the world.

505, the album's closer, is my favorite track on the album, as was A Certain Romance, the last track on Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. I used to hate when bands did this, especially before CDs; we had these things called "cassettes" that played music, maybe you've seen pictures or heard stories of them? If a band had their beast song at the end of Side 2, you either had to sit through the whole thing or fast-forward to get to it. Not anymore. But when you listen to Favourite Worst Nightmare, you can hear the best song first, which is technically last, wait, err, are you confused? I'm confusing myself, but one thing I'm not confused with is the fact that this is a pretty decent album. Above average to say the least...
Overall rating: 87

Next up: Laura Veirs' Saltbreakers...

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