60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #42


Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not – Arctic Monkeys (2006)

I was 42 years of age when I first encountered Arctic Monkeys.  They made me wish I was 18 again.

Every group of young music fans will take ‘ownership’ of a new/emerging band and claim them to be the greatest ever in the history of rock and roll.  Those of us who have been through that phase of our lives will often just look on, nod quietly, and indulge the kids.  They are usually wrong.

Arctic Monkeys, certainly to this wizened and gnarled veteran, felt different.  It wasn’t anything to do with the fact they were emerging from a whole new arena, something called social media where fans excitedly shared music files for free, always with the band’s blessing.  It was all down to the fact that this group of working-class musicians made infectiously catchy guitar-led music, fused with lyrics that defied belief, given they were the work of a teenager. Not only that, but it was very much a throwback to my own golden era of the late 70s and early 80s, and I really wanted to have the youth, vigour and energy to be able to enjoy it to the full.

One of the reasons that the debut album has made this rundown is the fact that it hasn’t really grown old.  Yes, Alex Turner and his bandmates have certainly moved on, and their music has matured with them.  But the stories and subject matters contained with ‘Whatever People Say I Am….’ are every bit as relevant and meaningful to today’s teenage daydreamers. And then there’s this:-

mp3: Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down

The tale of prostitution on the streets of Sheffield, as observed by a bystander who turns down an approach and then sees the woman get into a car driven by, in the narrator’s own words, a scumbag.  Whether this man is the pimp or a creepy client is never made expressed, but the accompanying video, which starred the now very famous Stephen Graham (forever referred to as Scummy Man in Villain Towers) makes it clear he is a bullying, controlling and thoroughly unlikeable pimp.

Not only is it an astonishing lyric written by someone so young, but it comes with a tune that moves from the melancholy/resigned to pounding stomper and then back again.

I could just as easily have highlighted many other great songs on the album. The one about a taxi ride after a night out; or the thrill of being dazzled by the looks of the girls in the dancehall; the tale of the bored teenagers being harassed by equally bored police officers; or the way it is so difficult to communicate with your other half when you’ve fallen out over something really trivial.

I was 42 years of age when I first encountered Arctic Monkeys.  There’s just a touch of serendipity that this album is #42 in the rundown.


5 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #42

  1. Great piece, I was 48 when they ‘arrived’ and they’ve been pretty consistent ever since. The last 2 albums are a bit of a departure from their usual style but well worth the effort of listening to them.

  2. ‘Dancing to electropop like a robot from 1984’. Great debut that still sounds great. Though it was hard for me to recapture my youth because when I saw them on this tour I was accompanied by Sam the friendly artist, then 12 years old. The band looked like him.

  3. “Whatever People Say …” is one possible answer to the question of what music should be played at a great party.

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