Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys hit the scene in 2006 with their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. According to Wikipedia, this album became the UK’s fastest selling debut album and has also gone quadruple platinum in the UK (let’s ignore the US because although Arctic Monkeys have fans here, they just haven’t caught on in quite the same way). While many consider Whatever People Say I Am… to be their best album, I don’t agree. But let’s take a look at why it is so lauded.
The band helped revitalize a Britpop/Britrock scene that had been slowly burning out. There were smaller bands who preserved the sound, but none really hit the mainstream in a meaningful way. Not like Arctic Monkeys. Alex Turner’s lyrics tell stories about modern lives of young British townies and capture a very realistic (perhaps a bit romanticized) portrait for many listeners, much in the way that Pulp did in the ’90s. For thematic reasons alone, I agree that Whatever People Say I Am… is indeed a great and influential album.
It’s not a perfect album. The songs themselves are good, with a few great ones. Of course the hit single “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” is still a favorite in the UK and US alike. Who can deny the witty lyricism and infectious dancy beat. It’s an insta-classic. Other greats are “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” “Mardy Bum,” “Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But…,” and “The View from the Afternoon.” Some songs fall flat, like “Dancing Shoes.” Most others fall somewhere in between. Overall, the album was incredible in 2006 and made many Britpop fans giddy to hear the sounds we loved finally rising to popularity again. The sounds of youth, rebellion, good times, guitar, and yes, arrogance.
Why isn’t it my favorite album? I think the band matured on future albums and fine-tuned their sound. They got better at playing (and not overplaying) their instruments. Everything seemed a little tighter on subsequent albums as the band gained confidence and popularity. We would remember them fondly had they disappeared after Whatever People Say I Am… but luckily we got three more albums and hopefully more on the way.
You can buy the album Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I Am Not here