You have to give credit to the Arctic Monkeys. It would have been so easy for them to rehash the themes of the debut, especially with all of the pressure put on them with the incredible praise that met them on its release. As good as Whatever People Say I Am, Thats What I’m Not was, it was overly indebted to the Monkeys’ love of all things Libertines and Strokes but delivered with a Northern England cyniscm that made it fresh and appealing to a new generation of fresh faced teens. After a year of rigorous touring the band return with Favourite Worst Nightmare, Alex Turner and cohorts have grown into their musical plimsoles, confident in their own abilities not just as songwriters, but as musicians to boot.
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding and opening track Brianstorm displays this new found confidence to startling effect. This juggernaut of a track literally smacks you in the face with Matt Helders pulsating drums played at a staggering speed whilst Turner’s sardonic lyric taking hold “Brian, top marks for not trying”. There is a punk urgency to the track that has taken over from the pop undertones from the debut, which continues throughout the first half of the album. The sing-along jaunty tracks are still here but they have been doused in a darker, more aggressive coating. The desert rock of Teddy Picker, an album highlight, is Fake Tales Of San Francisco Mk II with some of Turners most scathing lyrics yet “When did your lisp replace the twist and turn?/And your fist replace the kiss?/Don’t concern us with your bollocks/I don’t want your prayer/Save it for the morning after”. The onslaught of potential singles continues with D Is For Dangerous, Balaclava and Fluorescent Adolescent. All complete with the now familiar choppy riffs and aggressive delivery.
A well deserved rest is needed, which comes in the form of Only Ones Who Know, Alex Turner crooning over a sea of slide guitar. Its on tracks like this that you not only see the Monkeys more mature side but also hear Turners’ impressive vocals. Often he sounds bored, just going through the motions, but here we find him in love-lorn mode and it suits him. Yes! The Arctic Monkeys have a sensitive side.
The pace builds on Do Me A Favour, a musical roadtrip through the backwoods of Americana, a nice break from the chugging riffage that take up most of the record. Which, coincidentally, takes up the next chunk of the album. By now the formula starts to wear slightly thin. Where the first half of the record grabbed my attention and made me hold on for dear life, the second half is more formulaic to the point where I’m almost reaching for the skip button. Until, that is, album closer 505. By far the most outstanding thing the Arctic Monkeys have ever produced. Everything about it is perfect, from its two-chord beginning it builds from a solitary organ to a pounding bass drum and lilting guitar. The lyrics vivid, “In my imagination your waiting, lying on your side / with your hands between your thighs”.
Overall the album is a success. More importantly, it proves that the cocky northern scamps aren’t one trick ponies and can come up with a set of songs that totally strip away any previous preconceptions, whilst being totally familiar at the same time. If this is any indication, the future is looking increasingly brighter for Arctic Monkeys. Still young and unashamingly gifted, what comes next is anyones guess. But if its delivered with as much swagger and confidence as Favourite Worst Nightmare then its sure to be a winner.
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