And Hard-Fi top the albums...
Scott Colothan

19:50 22nd January 2006

Here aboard an unflinching wall of hysteria unparalleled in recent times, it’s little wonder that some are slightly sceptical about the Arctic Monkeys’ debut. We’ve all seen the hype, the almost endless tabloid and broadsheet column inches, the music press talking about the Sheffield foursome in unnervingly hallowed language, we’ve shook our heads in amazement at the self-professed ‘Arctic Army’ paying upwards of £100 on eBay to see their unlikely looking heroes, not to mention the bewildering fanatical reaction to their live shows. Fookin’ hell even Noel Gallagher has heard of them! So while they’re uniting ‘mainstream’ music lovers and notching up number ones, already the tiny minority on the fringes are giving them the cold shoulder – as Alex Turner rightly predicted, it’ll soon be cool to hate the Arctic Monkeys. Yet to pigheadedly cast ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ aside you would miss out on a truly fantastic album.

Barely stopping for a breath, throughout the thirteen tracks and 41 minutes the Monkeys take us on a breakneck ride of unashamedly searing tunes. Lyrically dense, clever and culturally relevant it’s a perfect snapshot of the toils of adolescent life in postmillennial northern England - acne and all. Kicking off with the hyperactive ‘The View From The Afternoon’ they wittily look forward to the ominous, inescapable goings on of the night ahead, with Alex nonchalantly predicting “Tonight there’ll be a ruckus yeah / Regardless of what’s gone before.” How true, and a sure-fire taste of things to come. Without any need of an introduction, the juggernaut of a single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ continues the sonic assault before ‘Fake Tales of San Fransisco’ narrates a tale of being stuck in a pretentious bar with some self-centred prick prattling on about shit “He talks of San Francisco, he's from Hunter's Bar / I don't quite know the distance / But I'm sure that's far,” all set to a jaw-droppingly brilliant tune.

Perfectly encapsulating the awkwardness of plucking up the nerves to approach a bird you fancy (“You’ve seen your future bride / Oh, but it’s so absurd / For you to say the first word / So you’re wantin n’ waitin’”) ‘Dancing Shoes’ fuses raw guitars with perfect indie-dance, while ‘You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights…’ with its deft nod to things going a bit “Frank Spencer” is so brisk, you wouldn’t be surprised if the lads had had a healthy dab of speed to help them along recording it. This is all before the rip-roaring, laugh-a-minute ‘Still Take You Home’, with Alex settling for a girl despite her obvious tangerine appearance “I can’t see through your fake tan / Oh ya know it for a fact / That everyone’s eating outta your hand… But I’ll still take you home.” Nothing short of inspired.

Thankfully as the album progresses it shows no signs of losing its momentum or impact. After the brief, affecting respite of ‘Riot Van’, the strutting ‘Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured’ offers more amusing social commentary “She were beyond belief / There was this lad at her side drinking his Smirnoff Ice / Can I buy you a Tropical Reef?” before a massive kick-off duly ensues at a Taxi rank. Then, the melodic, bouncy ‘Mardy Bum’ hits home (surely single three?), depicting the break down of a relationship the lads even show they’ve got a soft side – “Remember cuddles in the Kitchen”. Ah bless. Such niceties are obliterated with the uncompromising ‘Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But’, the observation on the grimier side of inner-city life that is ‘When The Goes Down’ and the ode to bullying, knobhead bouncers and a decaying nightlife ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble.” 

Ending on a crashing high note, ‘A Certain Romance’ wraps things up perfectly, encapsulating within its five minutes everything that’s great about this album – a top tune, astute quintessentially British lines ("Tracky Bottoms tucked in socks") and plenty of archetypal Monkeys charm. If you were being a pedantic twat and clutching at straws you could say, musically at least, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ is not massively forward thinking, experimental and all that shite, but it doesn’t need to be. Imbued with a stripped-down, unswerving and almost punk ethos this is music from the heart with the words to match. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but for the Arctic Monkeys their time is now.