Arctic Monkeys are stronger than ever after the release of their fantastic new album AM. Ahead of their October show at the Echo Arena, Getintothis’ Joseph Viney picks his top ten.
They say the reason that child stars have a propensity to end up going off the rails as they become older is because their fame deprives them of the space and time needed to mature.
We’ve all seen any number of tragic cases whose time in the spotlight only causes them to bubble and boil, before some much-publicised and embarrassing event seals their fate forever.
Although not children when they first appeared in the public eye, Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys were very much wet behind the ears when they were propelled right into a seat at the top table.
Far more than a lot of other artists who find immediate success, Arctic Monkeys seemed to settle right into it, eschewing public moments of drink or drug-based tomfoolery and zeroed in on fine tuning the elements that made them a success in the first instance.
As time has gone on they have grown stronger and stronger.
New album AM, released September 9, is the finest display yet of that musical maturity.
With its three lead singles R U Mine? Do I Really Wanna Know? and Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High? (Alex Turner sure loves asking questions, doesn’t he?), AM is not only the fastest selling UK album of 2013, but it might just be the strongest entry yet from a band that still look as if they have their best days ahead of them.
With a date at the Echo Arena on Monday October 28, you will soon be able to see for yourself just how far they’ve come in such a relatively short space of time.
In the spirit of things, Getintothis’ Joseph Viney selects their ten best tracks from their first four records.
1. I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Well, it would be rather rude not to mention this one, wouldn’t it?
The song that grabbed the band by the collar and threw them into the public consciousness might not have reinvented the wheel musically, but it contrived to kickstart a lot more than that.
When writers say “write what you know”, for the most part that actually works well. Turner utilised his strengths as a writer on this song and the rest of their debut LP, deploying a narrowed eye and a sharp tongue on Sheffield’s nightlife, burgeoning young love and the unparalleled nightmare of stark, unrequited lust.
Marry this to the song’s stuttering intro, simple-yet-effective riff and typically powerful drumming from Matt Helders, then it’s no wonder that we’re still talking about this lot today.
2. Brianstorm from Favourite Worst Nightmare
Rightly or wrongly, artists are judged a lot quicker and given less time to mistakes by their commercial and critical overlords.
Since we in this country tend to abide by the law of “build ’em up, knock ’em down”, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that Arctic Monkey’s first flushes of success were to be followed by a nasty fall.
Thankfully, any notion that these Monkeys were merely test subjects was put to bed when Brianstorm, the first single from their second LP, landed with a thud.
From its rolling thunder intro that settles into a great groove, the song doesn’t let up until the very end.
Turner’s pithy lyrics displayed an awareness of the trappings of his new found fame, perhaps a crucial part of the band keeping their feet on the ground.
3. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair from Suck It And See
While it’s preferable for bands to evolve their sound over time, exploring new things and presenting their ideas differently, too much of a shift at once can be a little jarring and can only serve to isolate listeners.
The lead single from their fourth LP, with its stomping riff and malevolent atmosphere, may have come as a slight surprise, but in retrospect it was always the kind of song they’d been brewing up.
The song’s title lyrics are an ode to bad luck (“Wear your shellsuit on bonfire night“) and the video’s mirage of Strokes-do-Warhol was a neat little slice of kaleidoscopic fun.
4. Teddy Picker from Favourite Worst Nightmare
You can’t beat a song with a rolling start and with that, Teddy Picker doesn’t disappoint throughout its short lifespan.
Taking the piss out of the pursuit of fame, the song takes swipes at those entranced by what they perceive and the moral and monetary wealth of their favourite stars and those sharks at the top who feed off that desire.
The song ends with one of Turner’s finest quips: “Presuming all things are equal, who’d want to be men of the people when there’s people like you?”
5. The View From The Afternoon from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Some have theorised that the group’s first LP is a loose but in-place concept record about a day and a night out in Sheffield’s pubs and clubs.
It might just be that since most of the songs are about that topic anyway it would have panned out that way regardless of the order.
However, The View From The Afternoon backs up the theory nicely.
“Anticipation has the habit to set you up for disappointment in evening entertainment” is Turner’s opening gambit, and his tales of spying “lairy girls” in “bunny ears and devil horns” has the propensity to bring up some vivid imagery for those of a certain disposition.
The song also gets points for its crunching chorus and relentless barrage of sound.
6. Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But… from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Many of you reading this will be well versed in trying to get a band off the ground or simply being involved in some aspect of a city’s artistic community.
For all of the positives a rich scene provides, there can be a lot of politics, in-fighting and plain old nastiness.
…Vampires strives to encapsulate the negativity that can surround people when they put themselves out there on show; the unwanted advice, bitching and perhaps even sabotage.
But it’s also a song that speaks up for forging ahead and doing your own thing, even if there’s no money involved (“I ain’t got no dollar signs in my eyes“) and you have to travel lengths and breadths of the country just to get heard (“He said I can’t believe that you drove all that way“).
7. Brick By Brick from Suck It And See
A short and sweet little number replete with a few thick solo passages, Brick By Brick is catchy and by time it’s finished, has you reaching for the back button to play it again.
Simply structured with a addictive call and answer refrain, the song is a reminder that these lads can still do the simple things well.
8. My Propeller from Humbug
Ok, so it’s potentially a song about wanking, but don’t let that put you off immediately.
The internet being what it is, there are thousands of interpretations from over-zealous fans determined for some reason to tell people the song isn’t about Alex Turner’s dick.
So we’re looking at anything from LSD use to depression and a load of madness in between.
Regardless, this Josh Homme-produced effort carries a certain malevolence and a subtly heavy rhythm. Listen for yourself, see what you think it’s about.
9. Piledriver Waltz from Suck It And See
Found originally on Turner’s solo EP soundtracking the film Submarine, Piledriver Waltz is a beautiful, fragile tune that contain some of his best lyrics.
Far be it for Getintothis to get all weepy and emotional over a song (there’s something in our eye, honest guv) but the chorus doesn’t just tug the heartstrings, but wrenches them all over the shop like a drunken campanologist.
10. Dancing Shoes from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
A typically pithy dissection of the strutting, preening and braying that occurs in pubs and clubs the country over, Dancing Shoes is short, sharp and sweet; much like the encounters it seeks to portray.
“There’s one thing on your mind” sneers Turner, bringing to life the priapic wolf packs that litter town and city centres on the weekends.
The lives and loves Turner describes in his songs are the norm to a generation and will be in the future too.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Getintothis‘ Top 10: Arctic Monkeys.
Arctic Monkeys set for Liverpool Echo Arena date
Arctic Monkeys: Echo Arena, Liverpool
Liverpool’s gig calendar 2013: Guide to essential gigs not to miss the rest of this year
Top 10: Primal Scream
Top 10: Neil Young
Top 10: David Bowie