Originally written: 27th June 2011
WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT’S WHAT I’M NOT
Six years after its release, I have finally shrugged off my musical inhibitions and listened to the whole of Arctic Monkeys’ critically acclaimed debut. Pushing my previous musical snobbery to one side using this album was surprisingly easy. What I had, aged twelve, dismissed as ‘ned-rock’ when I first heard some of the songs has now come alive in my eyes- or should that be ears?
Perhaps it’s more related to the lifestyle I had then compared with now, but it’s all so… relevant. So true to life.
What before I had deemed ‘nonsense lyrics’ have become astute social observations in an album that takes the listener from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning in thirteen tracks. And, thankfully, without the hangover. What Arctic Monkeys have done, in their signature tongue-in-cheek style, is to bottle the spirit of teen culture and douse it all over their record. The world may move fast these days, but they should be pleased to know that over half a decade later, their debut has lost none of its shine. It still serves as a sharp and witty exploration of songs about the youth experience in modern Britain.
From the anticipation of a night out (A View From The Afternoon); a scathing critique of the posers at a gig (Fake Tales of San Francisco); spotting a girl on the dancefloor (Still Take You Home) and eventually getting a taxi home (Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured), Arctic Monkeys capture every aspect of a typical night out, always maintaining a somewhat critical distance.
By getting fully involved, they step back and see what’s wrong.
The satire of the lyrics is somewhat masked by the indie-rock riffs which make the songs all the more listenable- increasing their appeal to the very group which star in their songs. The fact that Arctic Monkeys grasped this formula on their first album only foreshadows the success and recognition they have gained since.
Closing track ‘A Certain Romance’ sums up the boys’ attitude- I would argue it’s the one which has the biggest impact on the album, it’s undoubtedly my favourite. In spite of all that Saturday has brought- the drama, the promise of something more- the reality of this song at last sinks in. There is no glamour, no romance to the town. It’s always an overwhelming disappointment. It’s desolate, dead. No amount of Saturday nights will help them escape that.
Despite that somewhat depressing message, it’s arguably what makes the album so great. The band threw it out there- the product of their own youth in such a place, and millions of young people have caught it. They verbalise the reality that their listeners feel- the role filled by any band, but Arctic Monkeys seem to somehow bear this mantle more easily than the others. And that rage, the frustration at being stuck in such a backwater, makes it all better. Because someone else knows how it feels. They’ve been there, done that and didn’t bother to buy the t-shirt because it was shit. It helps so much, to know that while they may be taking place in a crappy setting, for now, Saturday nights are all they have. Though the people are vampires and act like dickheads, there is the knowledge that things can only get better. And until they do, this incredible album is there for the journey.