Arctic Monkeys began playing gigs in 2003. The band then recorded 17 demos and burned them onto CDs that were given away at their shows. From there, word spread and files were shared via fan-based internet sites. Arctic Monkeys didn't mind that because they were giving the songs away for free as it was and admitted to having no idea how to get their songs online themselves. This DIY method of marketing brought hoards of hungry fans to their shows who already knew the songs. There were crowd-wide sing-alongs, and they hadn't even released an album.
Released in America in early 2006, Whatever People Say I Am... is a concept album of sorts. Each first person narrative deals with nightclubbing in Northern England...the fights, the girls, and the romance. Lead Monkey, Alex Turner, though just a baby (as you'll see in the videos below) demonstrates incredible songwriting skills. "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (the album's first single) contains funky grooves tied to a machine gun clip set by drummer Matt Helders. Turner is keen to rhyme whatever and whenever he can, but his cadence and content flow smoothly through the narration without sounding forced ("I bet that you look good on the dancefloor/I don't know if you're looking for romance, or.../I don't know what you're looking for"). Most of the album continues the pace of "...Dancefloor" but two of the slower songs, "Mardy Bum" and "Riot Van", already show the lyrical and musical maturity exhibited on later albums Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007) and Humbug (2009).
Other strong tracks include the second single "When The Sun Goes Down", the meanderingly titled "You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me" and "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure", and the song NME placed at number 10 on it's list of 100 greatest tracks of the decade, "A Certain Romance".
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is one of my favorite albums of all time. Alex Turner is a master of observation and tells his stories like someone way beyond his experience. The sounds are infectious and the album contains not one skippable moment. Here is a great video of "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" (which came in at number 28 on the same NME list). The second video is my favorite track from the album, "From The Ritz To The Rubble", as performed on the BBC show Later with Jools Holland. Finally, a live performance of "A Certain Romance" at Pinkpop 2007.