Music Reviews
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

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

(Domino) Rating - 4/10

I get the feeling in many ways that I'm going to be in a minority here. I've seen and heard nothing but sweeping praise for the "spotty poetry" and 'meteoric rise' of t'Arctic Monkeys. I was, depressingly, not as surprised as I should have been when the NME (a bête noire of mine at the best of times) rated it fifth greatest album ever made, two days after it's release (that's four places above the Beatles highest). We'll see.

I feel like something of a fool when I explain to people my approach to new records by quoting Shakespeare: "I'll look to like, if looking liking moves." I wanted to like the Monkeys after I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor: it wasn't your average UK number one, it's romantically seedy small-town tales and muscular riffs cutting through the last vestiges of summer floor-fillers like a hot knife through butter.

However, one good single does not a great album make, and unfortunately, the rest of the record becomes pretty tedious, pretty quickly. Opener View From the Afternoon is a decent enough start but the album tails off after ...Dancefloor. That's the second track. When the single came out it really was a breath of fresh air in the charts, a non-major label band that write, play, everything, who've promoted themselves into that position, and fair play to them. But you know what? Even this track seems to have lost some its original bluster and bravado when placed in context of the album.

Granted, there are some clever word plays and the overtly Northern vocals add a particularly idiosyncratic quirk to the lyrics. In fact, it probably goes too far, as I've never met a Northerner who speaks with that much fluidity yet with that much vocal inflection. I guess it's street poetry, of a sort, but it's not saying anything that wasn't said by the Libertines several years ago, even by the Clash, close to thirty years ago. It's grimy indie discos; it's girlfriends walking out on you; it's bouncers and town centres on a Friday night; it's Riot Van's coppers and kids; it's Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured's alcopops and street fights; it's been done before. It's so familiar as to be old hat. It's also depressingly cynical for a band that weren't born at the time of most of the references they name-check (Duran Duran in 1984, for instance) - after a year that saw a good number of releases celebrating beauty and creativity for beauty and creativity's sake, it saddens me that what sells is still the Cigarettes & Alcohol of twelve (yes, twelve) years ago.

They're also attempting to salvage a musical template that's been recycled more times than the ropey Golf at the second-hand showrooms down the road. So sadly, despite great promise and almost unprecedented hype, the album's a fairly shallow experience - it annoys me now, I hate to think what state I'll be in if I have to keep listening to it, and to people harping on about it, for months to come.