For the past eleven and a half years, whenever anyone has asked me what my favourite album of all time is, there has only ever been one answer: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s Not What I’m Not by Arctic Monkeys.
The album would become a defining record for a generation. A collection of thirteen songs that spoke about the everyday experiences that young people were having at the time. This was not an album of nuance or metaphor, Alex Turner was instead taking every day events and converting them into the vernacular of the day. Songs about the travails of a night out, having to sit through a cringe worthy wedding band, or fights in nightclubs, were unusual subject matter for mainstream music of the time which is one of the reasons that the music of Arctic Monkeys stood out the way it did. The album did not feel like something written by an out-of-touch artist, something abstract or difficult to decipher, but instead it sounded like something written by your next door neighbour as they attempted to document there lives growing up.
This article will look at some of the songs off this iconic album and investigate the reasons why they might have had such a profound affect on the ears of young adults that heard it.
The View From The Afternoon
A song that addresses the day leading up to, and the day after, a night out. This song will instantly gather attention because of the instrumentation, an explosion of drums and guitar, but it is the lyrics that are the star of this song. References to drunken hen parties stumbling through the streets, and the act of unlocking your Nokia phone to find a string of embarrassing text messages make this song the definitive account of going on nights out when you are younger.
Fake Tales of San Francisco
Fake Tales of San Francisco is this writers favourite song off the album. The song is written from the point of view of a bored attendee at a wedding listening a bad wedding band singing songs about things that they know nothing about. The narrative of the song suggests at the disconnect that Turner’s generation feel has developed between themselves and the older generations, and the song encourages for the old way of doing things to be cast aside and replaced with the new. A message that would resonate.
From The Ritz To The Rubble
Being rejected by a bouncer at the entrance to a night club is one of the defining moments for everyone growing up and in this song Arctic Monkeys walk the listener through the whole experience. From the arrogant bouncer who is bored by his job to the embarrassment that is felt when you are turned away, this song will bring back memories of growing up better than most others.
Mardy Bum is a love song like no other. The title comes from the Sheffield slang for a disagreeable person and scattered throughout the song we hear Turner use Sheffield vernacular to articulate a difficult period in a relationship.
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Let us first appreciate that this is one of the best songs ever written. The first single by the band, it would appear on radio waves in 2005 and would instantly catch the attention of music fans and critics alike. The song has one obvious theme, the interactions between potential romantic partners in a nightclub. The lyrics are perfect, addressing the doubts, the misdirections, and even referencing the cringe worthy dancing that will be frequently on show. Every line is an instantly familiar experience delivered with Turner’s trademark droll Sheffield accent which is appropriate for a man who has likely not just witnessed these events, but been an active participant in them in the past.
A Certain Romance
A song that addresses the affection that we all have on some level for the neighbourhood or community that we grow up in, despite the flaws that it may have and undesirables that may live in it. The song also talks about how your relationship with childhood friends can change down through the years, but despite these changes they will always be your friends. These are sentiments that are familiar to all of us, and Turner articulates them with a level of detail that still remains rare in music.