The Arctic Monkeys have crossed the Atlantic.
After their demo tracks spread across the Internet and left fans chanting lyrics before even seeing the band live, the boys from Sheffield, England, knew it was time for their first album. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, a re-recording of their wildly popular demos, is already famous in the United Kingdom along with their chart-topping single “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.”
Fueled by their international success, the Arctic Monkeys have decided to come to the United States. In a style similar to Manchester natives Stone Roses and Kasabian, the band has gained ever-heightening fame through delivery of fast, gritty guitar chords and drum beats. Their songs typically depict teenage club experiences, ranging from the difficulties of approaching girls to trouble with club bouncers. The tracks, light with easily relatable lyrics, are also catchy and danceable.
Yet the Arctic Monkeys also have a deeper side. Intertwined with fun club experiences are stories that develop a greater social consciousness. The depressing “When The Sun Goes Down” follows Roxanne, a young streetwalker whose living depends on a particularly “scummy” customer. The group’s music also takes aim at police targeting of underage drinking – which the band suggests diverts attention from serious crime – and raises provocative questions about the commerciality of today’s world.
Regardless of tone or subject, frontman Alex Turner is the star of every track. With his Sheffield slang and colloquial style, he mixes song with spoken word to bring the lyrics, the band’s best asset, to life. It’s simply a treat to hear him speak, but when mixed with wordplay and poetic nuances, the band’s vocals shine at levels far surpassing the rest of the instrumentation.
“Mardy Bum,” a track that follows a couple’s fights, is an example of both Turner’s vocal and lyrical talent. He sings, “I see your frown / And it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun / And it goes off / And out come all these words / Oh there’s a very pleasant side to you / A side I much prefer.” Turner’s voice manages to capture the hostility and tension in the relationship, but simultaneously shows its deep affection.
After garnering the pervasive adoration of fans across Britain, the Arctic Monkeys are now left to live up to the hype in North America. But their chatty sound and unique voice combined with clever storytelling have deservedly kept the quartet in the spotlight, and Whatever, for all its widespread overexposure, does not disappoint.
The only question remaining is whether the Arctic Monkeys are simply the “it” flavor of the week or if they will become more than a headline-spawning, ephemeral force in the music world. Only time will tell, but if their landmark debut is any indication, they will be around quite some time.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars