The British phenomenon known as the Arctic Monkeys had a tough act to follow with their first album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” which earned the title of fastest-selling album in the history of the U.K. and produced two number one singles, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When the Sun Goes Down.” The album also won the 2006 Mercury Prize for best British or Irish album in the last year. After the popularity of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” the pressure was on to come back with an even greater performance in their sophomore album.
The Arctic Monkeys have succeeded in evolving into a new sound without leaving behind their originality. Though much of their initial up-and-coming appeal is now gone, the band produced an album that brings back their old style along with a new intensity and depth and reflects the experience the band has gained since their debut. Their newest songs explore the world outside the Brits’ homeland, advancing the band beyond the realm of their first album.
When the group released the first track of the album, “Brianstorm,” as a single, the song previewed the band’s progress into a more aggressive second album that is less concerned with a pop sensibility. The lyrics and melodies are more intense and even at times a little darker than before. The track “Do Me a Favour” — an intense break-up song that presents both man and woman’s perspective in an aggressive argument — presents a heavier tone. Likewise, the love song “505” has a greater emotional depth than what we’ve seen so far from the Monkeys: Turner sings about returning to his awaiting lover and says, “I probably still adore you with your hands around my neck,” and, “I crumble completely when you cry.” These lyrics hold much more emotion than the song “Still Take You Home” off “Whatever,” which described a much more superficial attraction to a woman with a “fake tan.”
But all is not melancholy in the world of the Arctic Monkeys, as lead singer Alex Turner and guitarist Jamie Cook introduce an energized tempo in their guitar playing with songs like “D is for Dangerous” and “Teddy Picker,” and backup vocalist and drummer Matt Helders and bass guitarist Nick O’Malley contribute a more danceable rhythm, occasionally joining the likes of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Architecture in Helsinki with fairly successful Talking Heads impressions.
The band members also maintain their characteristic wit and sarcasm in the new songs. The single “Brianstorm” pokes fun at the now trite “t-shirt and ties combination,” saying, “see you later, innovator.” In another track, “This House is a Circus,” the Arctic Monkeys even say, “Now that we’re here, we may as well go too far,” suggesting that they’re not too concerned with the response to their obscenity-flecked but not particularly controversial lyrics.
With a successful first album under their belts, the Arctic Monkeys faced a lot of pressure to return with an even better, newer sound. “Favourite Worst Nightmare” has both its highs and lows, but is an accomplishment if only because it’s not a huge disappointment.