The Hidden Gem in Every Arctic Monkeys Album That You Need to Hear
The Hidden Gem in Every Arctic Monkeys Album That You Need to Hear
You may have missed these on your first listen.
By: Barry Scott
Very few bands have had to endure a career with such intense media scrutiny from virtually their inception as the Arctic Monkeys. With the help of fledgling social media websites (remember when MySpace was a thing? Where’s poor Tom now?) and bootlegs of their tracks, live performances soon spread across the internet like wildfire. Tracks like the funk-infused "Fake Tales Of San Francisco" and the dancefloor-filling "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" catapulted the band into one of the most hyped bands in the global indie music scene. Soon they were the darlings of the British music press and touted as one of the most promising and important bands in the U.K.’s recent rock revival. All before they even put ink to a record deal.
Thankfully, they proved that they were more than just hype with the release of their 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (still the fastest selling U.K. debut album to date), which showcased a band with legitimate musical chops and a self insured, infectious swagger beyond their years. Led by a frontman in Alex Turner, whose eclectic taste in music and ever-changing style has ensured that whilst many of their mid 00’s rock contemporaries have either imploded, disbanded, or simply drifted into irrelevance, Arctic Monkeys have remained one of the biggest and most interesting bands in modern rock.
Since the release of their record-breaking debut, the band has released a further five studio albums. With each new record demonstrated their willingness to reinvent themselves, unafraid to push their own musical boundaries amongst the slew of toe-tapping singles that helped them conquer the internet over a decade ago. Herein lies the true magic of the Arctic Monkeys. They are truly a band that produces albums, whose whole output on a record is greater than the sum of its parts.
So here are my picks for the hidden gem in every Arctic Monkeys album.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
"A Certain Romance"
January 23rd, 2006
"A Certain Romance" was given the daunting task of concluding their debut album. Something that it achieves with a certain aplomb by expertly combining the best aspects of the previous 11 tracks into one ever-evolving sonic adventure.
Starting off with a pulsating drum beat much like the album's opening track, "A View From The Afternoon", before suddenly unleashing a savagely scratchy guitar riff, to only again be joined by an even more furious drum assault, as they battle back and forth on a mission to beat ears into submission.
The first forty seconds of "A Certain Romance" are a loud, brash, punch in the mouth like so many of the earlier tracks in the album. But then everything changes. A quirky guitar riff suddenly emerges, soon followed by a catchy bassline reminiscent of the glue that held so many of the previous tracks together. But it's when Turner's distinct, thick Sheffield accent and playfully sharp lyrics come to the forefront, this track really gets the feeling of a greatest hit made of everything that made the previous 40 odd minutes so enjoyably exhilarating.
Although it would be easy to categorize the Arctic Monkeys as just another guitar band, the various musical misdirections and structure of "A Certain Romance" show glimpses of what's to come, beautifully concluding an album that proves they are more than just hype.
Favourite Worst Nightmare
April 23rd, 2007
Although not exactly reinventing the wheel, "Favourite Worst Nightmare" showcased that the Arctic Monkeys were evolving as musicians without completely tearing up the blueprint that made them an instant global sensation. The catchy guitar hooks and toe-tapping baselines were still evident in tracks like "Teddy Picker" and "Fluorescent Adolescent". But there was also evidence of a band willing to experiment with their sound in tracks like "Only One Who Knows" and the excellent "505".
Starting off with with a haunting organ accompanying Turner's somber delivery, this introspective track about longing for a distant lover sounds strikingly different from everything released by the band to this point. The tension slowly builds as sparse guitar chords are left to hang throughout the song, before being joined by a pulsating, if not restrained, rhythm section. The crescendo suddenly erupts as the sense of built-up frustration simmering underneath the surface throughout the track is released with Turner's heart-aching vocals perfectly capturing the angst of the moment. Additionally, the eerie guitar during the outro played by future Last of The Shadow Puppets bandmate, Miles Kane, leaves you with a feeling of excitement that this band is only scratching the surface of their potential.
"The Jeweller's Hands"
August 19th, 2009
After a meteoric rise, the band took a much-needed hiatus and returned with the criminally underrated Humbug. This time they worked not only with previous producer, Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford, but teamed up with Queens of the Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme. Homme's fingerprints can be felt throughout the record, to the point where it could very much be mistaken for the demonic love child of the two bands. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final track "The Jeweller's Hands."
With its menacing opening, conjuring up images of a demonic carnival, this is a hauntingly beautiful melodic track. Slowly building steam into a sinisterly sounding mantra accompanied by wailing guitars, it swirls around like a tortured soul. Like so much of this album, this is a song that needs to be listened to repeatedly to truly be appreciated. "The Jeweller's Hands" lays an important foundation for the albums to come.
Suck It And See
June 6th, 2011
Learning from the lessons of their previous album, the band set out to release a simpler and more accessible record than the darker and heavily overdubbed Humbug. A collection of catchier, straightforward rock songs that never set out to overstay their welcome, "Reckless Serenade" is the epitome of this approach.
Starting off with a cheerfully chunky bassline and pulsating drumbeat, this track creates a warm and fuzzy feeling that's in direct contrast to some of the more aggressive, in your face tracks of previous outings. The real star of this track is the sweeping guitar that seems to draw you in from every side, working in perfect tandem with Turner's understated vocals. And just as quickly as it began, it's over. Like so much of Suck It and See, this is a pleasant yet easily forgettable song, from an album that refuses to step on any toes.
9th, September 2013
AM can be considered the album that blooms from Humbugs seed. A true rock album that saw the band finally breakthrough into the U.S. off the back of singles "R U Mine", "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" and "Do I Wanna Know?" But hidden amongst the brash, arrogant swagger of most of the album is the gently soulful "Mad Sounds."
From the warm opening guitar riff and delicate vocals, this track is happy to let itself build slowly. But it's when the organ thrusts itself to the forefront that the track delightfully morphs itself into a gospel gem complete with 'Ohhh la, la, la's' and all. A gorgeously intimate respite in an otherwise unapologetic, balls to the wall, rock album.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
"She Looks Like Fun"
May 11th, 2018
It's a true testament to a band's artistic integrity that after they finally break through in the U.S. that their follow-up album would prove to be their most experimental and divisive to date. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is not a one and done listen, a mere collection of easily digestible singles. Instead, this truly is an album. A collection of unexpected moments that pull in various directions, yet manage to hold itself together with an effortlessly cool confidence.
Amongst all this head-turning madness, "She Looks Like Fun" stands out as one of the more interesting moments, giving itself a distinct flavor compared to the rest of the album. It's a storm amongst the calm with its grand (if not slightly chaotic) chorus of menacing Nick Cave-like vocals, that are juxtaposed beautifully by Turner's calm delivery throughout the verses and the majestically soaring guitar interlude. This is a song that will throw you to the floor, only to pick you up and apologize moments later. It is unstable, and yet more interesting for it, much like the rest of the album.
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