Where the Fuck are Arctic Monkeys?
There was a time when I called Arctic Monkeys my favourite band. Alex Turner describing nights out in his Northern England town, creatively spinning a narrative against the thrashing, almost punk riffs of his bandmates was a stone’s throw away from perfection. I’ve often been quoted saying that their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is a ten out of ten. I’m not just fanboying – even their EPs have classic tunes that most current fans merely gaze over. Despair in the Departure Lounge, Leave Before the Lights Come On and Who the Fuck are Arctic Monkeys are all classics that meld the witty storytelling and clever riffs. This isn’t some article about whether or not Arctic Monkeys will return off of their 2014 hiatus; if anything, don’t come back. This is a reflection on their discography, now where the fuck are the real Arctic Monkeys?
Each track encapsulat[es] who Arctic Monkeys were: cheeky-eyed British boys who knew how to have a good time and write some bloody good songs.
Their first album is one of the greatest albums of all time. Every single song is amazing and transitions well into the next gut-punch of indie rock. Punky track The View From the Afternoon introduces the album, the two guitars playing off each other, then moves to the ever popular I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor without a breath. Turner’s dazzling lyrics are showcased perfectly in Fake Tales of San Francisco, we don’t catch a break until Riot Van comes on half way into the track listing. From Ritz to Rubble and A Certain Romance are arguably the best songs on the album, rounding it off to finish, each encapsulating who Arctic Monkeys were: cheeky-eyed British boys who knew how to have a good time and write some bloody good songs.
Arctic Monkeys follow up with Favourite Worst Nightmare, an excellent album but one that can’t compare with its predecessor. That said, I find that most fans these days skip these two and jump straight to their latest album. I get a lot of flak for hating their 2013 record, AM. I’ll admit, when it came out I got caught in the hype. You can’t blame me though, R U Mine is a fantastic song. Now, when I try to listen to AM I end up skipping majority of the album. If young Turner heard Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High, I’m pretty sure he’d be disappointed too. I Want It All sounds like it belongs on Like Clockwork, the 2013 Queens of the Stone Age album, No. 1 Party Anthem puts me to sleep, and I Wanna Be Yours seems like Arctic Monkey’s attempt of Make it Wit Chu, and Arabella’s slick riffs might as well have come from the fingers of QOTSA front man Josh Homme. And it’s here where I think I’ve finally got down to the nitty gritty of my problem.
Back in 2009, Arctic Monkeys released Humbug, their third full length release. Upon writing, the band sought after a new sound. Why on earth they’d want to do that is beyond me. Their sound worked, it was quintessential British indie rock. Their fan case was a border line cult, just look at the sales for their first album. For this new sound they partnered with Queens of the Stone Age front man and master of suave, Josh Homme. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the man, he’s done some great things in his career, but he needed to back the fuck away from my Arctic Monkeys. Something must have happened in the Californian deserts of Joshua Tree because what came out of those recordings wasn’t the cheeky Sheffield band with evolved Beatles haircuts. For one, their hair grew out. Then they adopted the stoner desert rock sound Homme had so expertly created previously.
My first time listening to Humbug was like eating a kebab after a night on the town; it’s good for the first 5 bites but shit turns sour pretty quick.
Humbug opens with My Propeller. Automatically my ears stand on edge as the thick bass line stomps through my speakers. I remember my first time well. What I thought would be a pleasant experience, maybe a bit quick, a bit risqué, quickly turned into an uncomfortable effort to stay interested. My first time listening to Humbug was like eating a kebab after a night on the town; it’s good for the first 5 bites but shit turns sour pretty quick. My Propeller’s slow, rolling rhythms and Turner’s attempt at crooning was not the Arctic Monkeys I’d fallen in love with. Turner’s provocative lyrics stayed in England, their punk like attitudes fallen by the wayside. This was a different band altogether.
Shall I talk about Suck It and See? As far as I’m concerned it’s the least favourite of the Monkeys’ albums whether you’re a lover or hater, though Wikipedia has told me otherwise. If you’re reading this and are for some reason new to the discography of Arctic Monkeys, skip this album. Skip the laughable Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair. Listen to Library Pictures, then move on. It’s the shortest track and for a minute we get a shimmer that the old Arctic Monkeys are still in there. Homme’s influence travelled onwards into Suck It and See with the desert fuzz littered across the production.
The hair grease of Turner’s pompadour is the soul of this record.
Arctic Monkeys returned to Joshua Tree to make their fifth album, AM. I’ve already mentioned this, I’m not a fan and many people believe that to be blasphemy, but I can see why people like the album. There’s a certain sex appeal to AM. The hair grease of Turner’s pompadour is the soul of this record as he takes on an aura of Elvis. They tease me with R U Mine’s cheeky lyrics and solid riffs but alas, it’s not enough.
Though I think one of the problems is the introduction of Homme, I can’t help but bring up their ever changing style. Arctic Monkeys have gone through more looks than the Kardashians, and as far as I know the band are surgery free. What used to be school boy Beatle punks soon changed to long hair stoner rockers with sun bleached denim jackets. It all feels too choreographed, especially as they transform themselves into greaser heart throbs, thrusting into their instruments in between slicking back their hair. Do they need to change their image to reflect the change in their sound? Is that necessary? I feel as if Arctic Monkeys are in a bad teenage relationship, they need to adapt to attract the opposite sex. I’m telling you boys, you don’t.
There’s been no word of new material coming out of the band and I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t think my emotions can be toyed with anymore. I’ve been pulled in all directions. Maybe this is it, maybe this is the end. This article was supposed to be a reflection on their discography, but I guess it’s my goodbye letter to what used to be my favourite band. I’ll never really know where the fuck the true Arctic Monkeys are. In closing, I’ll leave you with a classic.