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Sunday, June 5, 2011

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

Their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, became the U.K.'s fastest selling debut album...moving 360,000 copies in its first week. To put that in perspective, it sold more on its very first day than the rest of the Top 20 albums combined. But what's amazing about Arctic Monkeys and their debut is that there was no huge record label promoting the release. The band signed with indie label, Domino, just six months prior to releasing their first album. It was the fans and the internet fan-based sites that had been spreading the word for the previous two years. How good does the music have to be to virtually change the way new bands are promoted and marketed?

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.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. When we were out on our guys' night, I thought of bringing that album up, but the moment passed. I love this album and go back to it once or twice a year. I've had it playing in my car for most of last week.