Arctic Monkeys, 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' (Domino)

7
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Critical Mass
Label: Domino

by Nick Sylvester

"Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment," or so goes the smarting first line from Arctic Monkeys' debut LP. Before the Sheffield upstarts had been around long enough to get slagged as a second-rate Jam rip, the British music press had already placed a crown in their cradle, making them fresh bait for industry bats and baby eaters.

Thing is, the Monkeys know it. In the wake of uberclever Franz- fertilized guitar pop, their Next Big Thing full-length arrives decidedly un-NBT: blunt and bratty, emotionally pubescent even. While his American peers scrounge for fake IDs and mustaches, lead Monkey Alex Turner is content being 19, green-eared, and maybe a bit stupid. "Love's not only blind but deaf," he snaps on the basement funk-rock groove "Fake Tales of San Francisco," something of a TV cop theme for kids who grew up packing Nerf guns. Turner's not resigned (the Strokes) or over-sexed (the Libertines), just sophomoric. He has "dreams of naughtiness" on the raspy single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," but never commits the naughties himself. "Get on your dancing shoes!" he commands instead. He wishes he had the guts to ask you to take your dancing shoes off, but this sheepishness carries weight too.

That's not to say the Monkeys ignore their "it"-ness -- check the album title for proof. As if to preempt backlash, they strike out against the fickle file-sharers and magazine vampires who launched them, singing "You pretend to you'll stand by us / I know you're sure that we'll fail." Knee-jerk haters have it coming too, as do the patronizers who say the Monkeys are, y'know, "good for what they are": Street Fighter references, robot-dance jokes, and a possible Sublime homage (all of which say, loud and clear, "Bugger off"). Add to that the opening track's muddy guitar grumble, a blatant jab at Art Brut's "Formed a Band" -- famous for that "We're gonna be the band that writes the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along" line -- and we can be sure Turner and friends, at least for now, just want to rumpus.

See also: Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (Domino, 2004)

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