Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Fluorescent Adolescents: Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare
No doubt about it, Rock Turtleneck lays it on heavy with coverage of geriatric rock: Dylan, Macca, Keef. But RT is equally enthusiastic about the exciting music young whippersnappers are making these days. So today let us pause to hail the Arctic Monkeys, whose new, sophomore album Favourite Worst Nightmare is one of the best records in recent memory.
It's full of the piss and vinegar of the first British new wave: The Jam, Elvis Costello, Pretenders, Joe Jackson. Angular guitars, sharp melodies and brilliantly strange turns of phrase abound.
Take the first verse of “Fluorescent Adolescent” about a bored housewife contemplating a knee-knocker with a younger bloke:
You used to get it in your fishnets
Now you only get it in your nightdress
Discarded all the naughty nights for niceness
Landed in a very common crisis
Everything's in order in a black hole
Nothing seems as pretty as the past though
That Bloody Mary's lacking a Tabasco
Remember when he used to be a rascal?
This closely observed portrait of the middle-class English life would be right at home on Imperial Bedroom, Sound Affects, East Side Story, or for that matter, Something Else by the Kinks.
The Monkeys made a big splash with their brilliant first record Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and showed the world they were far more than more than the Britpop du jour with their adrenalinized performances of hits like "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and "Fake Tales of San Francisco."
While both albums are full of great songs, Favourite Worst Nightmare is more enjoyable as an album experience than their debut – it demands your attention from the very first second of the first song "Brianstorm" (that's not a typo) and never lets up. Yet the whole CD has real ebb and flow that is very rare in this age of single-song downloads. As "Fluorescent Adolescent" ends, for example, it gently gives way to the dreamy ballad “Only Ones Who Know.” You're reminded of the sense of pace you get at the best live shows. And realize how long it's been since you've gotten this from a new band.
Keep your eye on this gaggle of pimply Brits. Like Beck or IRS-era R.E.M., singer/songwriter/guitarist Alex Turner and his mates from the suburbs of Sheffield have some exciting twists and turns ahead of them. One would be well advised to hop on for the ride.