Alex Donohue
12:05 12th October 2005
For a generation who will forever be deprived of seeing The Smiths, The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and Primal Scream – when they were still good – live, tonight comes as nothing more than a huge lungful of the purest mountain air. It’s ludicrous to think that Milburn and Arctic Monkeys - two acts with only three releases between them - can already be so well known to their audience, but every song played tonight is greeted like it’s taken up residence in the pub jukebox for years. In the case of Arctic Monkeys, their instant popularity can be attributed to two key factors. Firstly, their unrelenting internet campaign to get as many of their songs downloaded on to iPods as possible singles them out as the anti-Metallica. Arctic Monkeys actively encourage fans not to pay for their records. Secondly, it’s by sheer force alone that Milburn and Arctic Monkeys possess that incredibly rare but much overlooked gift of writing jaw-droppingly magnificent songs which are instantly recognisable as their own.
Milburn must tire of being asked how old they are. It must be a nightmare trying to get served when they’re at home in their native Sheffield. To get the bothersome question out of the way, Milburn’s average age is 18. The quartet are tonight celebrating guitarist Louis’s twentieth birthday. His mic stand is covered with balloons, but not even the no-longer-a-teenager-blues can stop them delivering a superb set. ‘Showroom’ is greeted with the vim and vigour it deserves, ‘Cheshire Cat Smile’ despite the naff title, is their stab at The Smiths ‘What Difference Does It Make’ – albeit speeded up to twice the speed and with guitars reminiscent of early Blur.
“Nice to see you all know the words,” says Milburn frontman Joe Carnall three songs in. He isn’t being sarcastic. There’s even time for some audience karaoke in between songs. With an arsenal of great songs already written, ‘Brewster’, ‘Send In The Boys’ and ‘Storm In A Teacup’ tantalizingly suggest there’s much more to come from Milburn. There’s passion and invention here in abundance, they’re not afraid to take songs in different directions, change tempo when they feel like it or duck out on irresistible melodies. An album, by their own admission, is some way off yet, but on the strength of tonight’s seven song set Milburn should look forward to a great 2006.
Judging by the crowd noise every time the lights go up and down before Arctic Monkeys traipse on, you could believe this was a farewell tour. Maybe they know something we don’t, but it’s more likely that it’s in anticipation of a band who are growing into their ‘Next Big Thing’ status. It’s a point that frontman Alex Turner happily acknowledges. Looking every bit the iconic northern singer a la Richard Ashcroft, he introduces the band before nonchalantly adding, “Apparently we’re the next big thing.”
It would sound arrogant, but when you open a set with forthcoming single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, it’d be foolish to disagree. ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ is next, their only official release to date. For a quartet they make a hell of a noise. Backed up by guitarist Jamie Cook, Andy Nicholson on bass and, Matt Helders on drums, it’s a pleasing racket featuring ‘You Probably Couldn’t See’, ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…’ is arguably their best song to date, it unfurls past the seven minute mark. Complete with bongos, ad-libbed vocals and another gargantuan audience sing-a-long that leaves you reminding yourself that the song hasn’t actually been released.
Arctic Monkeys do humour too. ‘Bigger Boys And Stolen Sweethearts’ has as good an opening couplet as any written in rock music recently, ‘There’s always somebody taller with more of a wit, a quip to enthral her and her friends think he’s fit. And you just can’t measure up no, you don’t have a prayer, wishing you had made the most of her when she was there.” They should dedicate it to all the nice guys who finish last, but that would be pointing out the bleeding obvious.
‘Red Light’ rounds off a fantastically well-received set. It’s difficult to accurately pin down the Arctic Monkeys sound other than to say they sound like a mixture of most great bands to come out of Britain in the last ten years. There’s the swagger of Oasis, the attitude and style of The Libertines, Blur’s invention and balls-out experimentation and, in Alex Turner, a singer who can deliver lines that lyrically, could one day put him in the same bracket as Jarvis Cocker. In short, if you haven’t found time to listen or see Arctic Monkeys play yet, Gigwise implores you to seek out a band who deserve all the hype and acclaim. The friendship begins right here.

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