A GUEST CONTRIBUTION by TIM BADGER
SWC is sat next to me in the office to ensure ‘fair play’. KT has just disappeared off to her desk and has switched on her iPod. She has been given orders to email through from song eight – so that there is some sort of tension. SWC is fully expecting this ICA to be utter torment for me.
I’ll recap – we had a little experiment, KT wrote an ICA on the Manics chosen by SWC’s ipod. He then wrote on Mercury Rev, chosen by my iPod and now its my turn, and KT’s iPod is doing the choosing. KT’s ipod is full of chart rubbish that she pretends not to love…
“I just haven’t found the time to delete ‘Superstar’ by Jamelia or ‘Hello’ by Lionel Ritchie or everything by the 1975.” is what she usually claims.
I am worried to be honest. When the iPod gets to the 11th song that is the artist/band that the ICA is on. I sit and pray that it’s not Kylie.
About two hours or so later an email arrives from KT – It turns out she forgot to let me know what songs came on as she was ‘busy’. So she has pressed back and tells me that Track Eight Was ‘Erase/Rewind by the Cardigans (tough), Track Nine was something by a band called Riley and the Restless (tougher as they are from Teignmouth and only have a couple of tracks on their soundcloud page – I’d still recommend them to you though if you are a fan of Johnny Cash). Track Ten was ‘Around My Head’ by Cage the Elephant (tougher still) and then I take a deep breath.
Track Eleven was ‘Cornerstone’ by Arctic Monkeys. I punch the air in delight and grin at SWC as her reads the email. He presses ‘reply’ on the email and types a solitary word. “Bastard”.
We did add a rule when writing these ICA’s – no more than 4 singles on the album, and it must contain at least one B Side, remix or cover version, it can contain more if you want it to. I may be slightly hoisted by my own petard here, as I own no Arctic Monkeys cover versions (actually I own, one a live version of a Beatles song, but it is rubbish, so we’ll ignore that) and I’m fairly sure that they’ve never been remixed. But then again four of their six albums are masterpieces so I’ll be alright I think.
So, here goes, An Imaginary Compilation Album on Arctic Monkeys.
Chun Li’s Spinning Bird Kick (B Side to I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor)
Chun Li as all you geeks will recall was a (the first?) female character from Street Fighter whose special move was the aforementioned spinning bird kick. I’ve started with this because I think firstly it underlines the Monkeys knack for a tune (this an instrumental was nominated for a Grammy) and secondly because I think it also underlines the bands ability to get this spot on because if everything in the world was set to music, being kicked in the face by a spinning Japanese warrior (or was she an undercover agent, I never quite followed her back story) would undoubtedly sound exactly like this.
Cornerstone (From ‘Humbug’)
People say that ‘Humbug’ was patchy (it sounds way too much like the Queens of the Stone Age to be honest), but I think it’s one of the four masterpieces that I mention up top (the two that aren’t are the second album and the most recent one in case we are playing Arctic Monkeys poker at all). ‘Cornerstone’ is lovely as well, an obvious album highlight, which stood out at the very first listen. It shows off what Alex Turner is famous for, subtle and intricate songcraft. The song is packed with vivid lyrics and observation about various watering holes and females who remind Turner of someone, we never find out who, but the song is so beautiful we don’t really care.
The Hellcat Spanged Shalala (From Suck It and See)
After ‘Humbug’ the band abandoned trying to be a South Yorkshire version of the Queens of the Stone Age and returned to making beautifully wistful guitar pop and it suited them down to the ground – and you know what – I think right now, ‘Suck It and See’ is my favourite of their albums, is it their best – not sure – but I personally don’t think that they have ever sounded as confident and as sparkling as they do in this song. It’s marvellous.
Despair in the Departure Lounge (From Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?)
In between the release of the first Arctic Monkeys album and the recording of the second album, the record company wanted the band to release a third single. This was supposed to be ‘The View from the Afternoon’ but instead of doing the easy thing and just releasing the band decided to release an EP of five tracks and immediately disqualified themselves from the charts, that they called it ‘Who the Fuck are Arctic Monkeys’ didn’t help either. That EP is full of gems, every track is wonderful, but this is the highlight. A beautiful exploration of what it means to pine after someone or something.
I Wanna Be Yours (From AM)
The poignant side of the Monkeys I don’t think has ever been in doubt, but their most poignant moment ever, isn’t even down to them. ‘AM’ their fifth album closes with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ which is a John Cooper Clarke poem from around 1985 that has been tweaked ever so slightly by Alex Turner. He then gives it a simple, beautiful, heartfelt delivery and when he tells us that “I wanna be your Ford Cortina/ And I will never rust,” it is utterly mesmerising.
Side Two – which is very first album heavy
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (From Whatever People Say I Am…)
When the Sun Goes Down (From Whatever People Say I Am…)
These two tracks sum up everything about the band when they first burst onto the scene. They are both essential listening and frankly without them this ICA would be useless. I’ve written about the first song before in some depth but I don’t think I have ever waxed lyrical about ‘When the Sun Goes Down’.
It is quite astonishing, both lyrically and musically. A bleak ode to prostitutes in Turner’s native Sheffield and their scummy pimps or customers. It’s astonishing in a number of ways – firstly the way that the tone changes after the line “He’s a scumbag don’t you know’ is breathtakingly mature for a band who are releasing just their second single. Then we are astonished again near the end when the scummy man arrives the prostitute becomes happy because as Turner tells us, sagely, “she must be fucking freezing, scantily clad beneath the clear night sky”. I mean that is some tragically beautiful poetry there.
She’s Thunderstorms (From Suck it and See)
This is the opening track of ‘Suck It and See’ – and was apparently actually writing during an ‘apocalyptic’ thunderstorm in New York. Although I think it’s more about the tempestuous and captivating nature of the female of the species than thunder, lightning and heavy rain.
Arabella (From ‘AM’)
I was going to mention an old blog that I use to read that hated the Arctic Monkeys with a passion and claimed that they were just peddling out the same old shit time after time, album after album. I was going to mention that he clearly could not have listened to ‘AM’ because that is so much different to all of their other albums – clearly influenced by hip hop and 70’s rock music and it contains ‘Arabella’ which is the best song ever written about a gator skin boot wearing female.
The View From the Afternoon (From Whatever…)
Lyrically, this is incredible. It’s visual trip through a town on a (presumably) Friday night. It’s full of characters, the girls at the fancy dress party in the limo, the gambler at the fruit machine, the lads with pool cues, the drunk sending text messages…It is just remarkable song and hope fully a fitting end to this ICA.
JC adds.……I’ll provide the cover version:-
mp3 : Arctic Monkeys – Put Your Dukes Up, John
A b-side on Leave Before The Lights Come On single, it’s their take on a 2005 single by The Little Flames…..one of whose members was…..Miles Kane.