The title of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” wholly encapsulates the band’s indie-rebel image. A product of the dynamic and trendy British pop-rock music scene, the Arctic Monkeys’ album boasts an energetic collection of dance songs that parallel the unruly and spirited escapades of European youth. Yet the album’s title is also a reflection of the overrated band: Pitchfork and company say the Arctic Monkeys are the “biggest new band since Oasis”; in reality, their lively music is nothing yet untouched by fellow producers of dance rock, often recalling past hits of the Strokes and Franz Ferdinand.
Yet the Monkeys have certainly crafted a formula aimed for instant success. In January, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” became the fastest-selling debut album in U.K. chart history, currently standing at over 360,000 sold copies, outselling every album on the top 20 chart combined. With these outrageous chart figures, the Sheffield-based Arctic Monkeys are gaining worldwide fame, a feat that has led some to compare them to their famous British predecessors, the Beatles.
Although the energetic album is full of vitality, the Monkeys’ sound is not quite worthy of such an explosive craze. The band, unlike the Beatles, offers little originality to a music industry already teeming with dance songs flourished by enticing British accents. Without a revolutionary style, Monkeys’ ability to achieve an almost instant fame is incredibly enigmatic. How did an unknown indie band make chart history? Quite simply, through high-speed ethernet connections . After the band’s online demos caught the ears of British hipsters, the band was signed, recorded and set to ignite the music scene abroad.
As suggested by the band’s instantaneous internet stardom, the Monkeys’ formula for success revolves around their replication of young fans’ fast-paced, modern lifestyle. The album’s songs undeniably speak to a specific fan base, sticking to lyrics that play into the well-known themes of youth: lust, instant pleasure, dance and nightlife. The lyrics of “A Certain Romance” are a perfect examples of the album’s motifs: “There’s only music, so that there’s new ringtones / And it doesn’t take no Sherlock Holmes / To see it’s a little different around here.”
“Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” opens with the song “The View from the Afternoon,” an noisy, gritty mix of loud guitar and messy percussion, a blend that colors the first half of the album. The first track sets the stage for the album’s second song and current single, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” an energetic track that will certainly incite a craving for the dance floor, if not at least get a few feet tapping.
Although the album starts out with a promising design, the songs quickly become indistinguishable — the opening tracks are each crafted with the same method, utilizing singer Alex Turner’s coarse voice and corresponding rough, lively guitar. The seemingly fresh lyrics swiftly turn stale — as much as we all love a good dance party, there are only so many varieties of the dance-floor tryst.
The album takes a different turn at the seventh track, “Riot Van,” a slow-paced, mellow number fused with the same lyrics of youthful unrest. Unlike the others, the song reflects a different side of youth, as the quiet, melancholy guitar strums along to an equally somber voice, reflecting feelings of suppression and melancholy prompted by misunderstanding.
The remaining tracks of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” are perhaps the album’s greatest achievements. Carrying the same zest that permeates the entire record, these songs are detailed, complicated and offer much more originality than the first half of the album. The songs pick up speed, toying with variations of heavy guitar, repetition of lyrics, and developing instrumental layers.
The Monkeys close on a high note, leaving listeners with two final tracks that stand out as album highlights. “From the Ritz to the Rubble” is one of few multi-dimensional songs, building on Turner’s lyrics with varying percussion and alternating soft and loud guitar riffs. “A Certain Romance,” the album’s last track, is the most complicated and engaging piece. The song begins with the Monkeys’ typical loud, rock guitar/drums combination, then quickly strays from this signature clamorous sound. The track combines witty lyrics and buoyant musical variations, culminating in a perfect closing number.
Though lacking creativity — a usual necessity to stand out against the underground band jumble — the Arctic Monkeys have crafted an album that delightfully reflects the dynamic spirit of rock culture. Able to lightly mock their own hipster way of life (“Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks / Or knackered Converse / Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks”), the Monkeys display the notable ability to cater to their fans — if not evident in the band’s spunky tracks, their booming record sales will serve as unquestionable proof.