Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

I was listening to Whatever People Say... with a young but insightful rock fan. Within the first few bars, he asked me to take out the disc. I obliged, curious as to his reasons. He rummaged around in his bag, and pulled out a burn CD with Wolfmother's "Woman" on it. He said, "That song sounds just like Wolfmother." Sure enough, as soon as "Woman" started, I heard exactly what he was talking about.

It's funny how most of us don't merely hear what's on the recording; we also hear what's on the cover, what the DJs have said, what our friends have told us, and whether or not our own personal gatekeeper -- be it MTV or Pitchfork -- approves of the music. But this young man, he heard two songs in two similar but different genres, and immediately associated them. I've never seen a parallel drawn between Wolfmother and Arctic Monkeys, but it's absolutely there, if only we choose to see it.

Whatever People Say... is a good rock album. It has swagger, the same kind of swagger the Stones had when they were young. There's not an enormous amount of talent here, but their attitudes more than compensate. Every song sounds pretty much the same, but since they're all catchy and energetic, that's not such a bad thing.

For me, the standout track is "When the Sun Goes Down." It's not just that I hear my own Southeast Baltimore neighborhood in the lyrics; it's their reference to "Roxanne" and the way the feel changes after the first verse. Vocalist Alex Turner even sounds a bit like Sting, back before Sting was a pompous ass. (Okay, he was always a pompous ass, but at least it wasn't as apparent on the first few Police albums.)

Music: 3.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
It's simple garage rock with a lot of energy. If you need brains or technical proficiency from your musicians, this isn't for you. If you like brash, working class rock and roll that celebrates dancing, drinking, and screwing, this is right up your alley.

Packaging: 4 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
The photography is gorgeous. The cover image reminds me of an immaturely earnest version of Peter Murphy's Holy Smoke cover. The pictures fit perfectly with the music. The little comment at the bottom of the thank you page sums up the album for me, though: an "us against the world" attitude from snotty young adults who know how to rock but have no clue what life and love is all about.

Listen if you like: The Strokes, Oasis, White Stripes, Jet. Yeah, and Wolfmother, too.

If it were food, it'd be: Fish and chips with a Red Bull & vodka.


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

Wow, fish and chips a Red Bull and vodka! I like it.

You are very creative with your "if it were food" comments!

taotechuck said...

Thanks, Layla. Bob_vinyl always makes fun of me because anytime I use a metaphor, it involves food. It seemed only natural to do it for the record reviews.

bob_vinyl said...

Although I probably wouldn't change the final rating on the album, I think your review sells it a little short. I didn't find it to be as redundant as you seem to have found it. Plus, while the neo-garage genre has become crowded, not many bands have the hooks that Arctic Monkeys do. Technical proficiency is a minor virtue at best next to good hooks.

taotechuck said...

Arctic Monkeys have hooks, I completely agree with you. As for the redundancy, I had the CD on shuffle on my iPod for months before I checked it out from EPFL. I'd hear a song, then hear a few songs from different bands, then hear another AM song. At that point, I'd nearly always think, "Didn't I just hear this song?"

Metal Mark said...

I actually tried to listen to this once. It was okay, but didn't do enough for me to want to hear it again.

The Mad Hatter said...

This album had been hyped up for me immensely, so when I heard it, I was kind of bummed. After returning to Earth with a clear head, I've ultimately decided that it's not bad, but it's not very good either. I enjoy a good deal of the music, but erase the existence of the album and it wouldn't effect me a whit.

taotechuck said...

You're right, Hatter; it wouldn't have made a bit of difference if this album had never been recorded. With that in mind, perhaps 3.5 library cards is a bit high. Then again, there are a lot of albums I absolutely love that, in the big scheme of things, don't matter. Hot Fuss immediately comes to mind. I recognize it's a trite and simplistic album, but I still find it incredibly enjoyable. I'd easily give it a 3.5, even though the world wouldn't be any worse without those songs.

The Mad Hatter said...

Some albums are like that, though -- even bands, for that matter. Call them indulgences. I think Blur is an indulgence -- as is Grand Funk Railroad. These bands are not very sophisticated musically at all, but something about their songs make me nod my head up and down. I don't understand your fondness of the Killers, though. ;)