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.)
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.
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.