Ah, the Arctic Monkeys. What a long and turbulent relationship I have had with this Sheffieldian band. I remember the end of 2005 like it was yesterday when J returned from Thailand after having met up with a whole host of ‘really cool Brits’ who just insisted that the Monkeys were going to be the biggest thing since, well, the Monkees. ‘Bet You Look Good’ was a jangly, loping, lanky track and I was in love. It seemed to work well with my jangly, loping, lanky frame. Needless to say, follow up ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ didn’t disappoint and while first single ‘Brianstorm’ was slightly confronting in its intensity, the lyrical ingenuity of tracks like ‘Teddy Picker’ and ‘Old Yellow Bricks’ carried and built on the legacy of the debut. ‘Do me a favour and break my nose’ came to be the rallying cry of my final year of highschool. And then, they decided to release something called ‘Humbug’ with the assistance of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. While I thought his side project, The Eagles of Death Metal‘s ‘I Want You So Hard’ was funny, I did not think ‘Humbug’ was funny. Not in the slightest.
It’s hard, when you love a band’s first two albums as much as I adored the Arctic Monkey’s work and so variously fantasise/readily identify with all the wickedly accented portrayals of nights gone wrong and scoombags walking the streets and whatnot, to rag on their third, slightly more experimental effort, quietly make your way to the back of the tray and jump off the bandwagon. So while yes, it was Nick Cave and, wow hasn’t that Turner boy matured into a fine young songwriter and geez, isn’t a lot of this very profound and distinctly wintery, fucking hell I was not happy with the gang. Needless to say, I slammed ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘My Propeller’ and (personal favourite and most palatable single) ‘Crying Lightning’ on my personal music device and got on with digging the band I’d always dug. And seeing them live at Terminal 5 in New York, I jigged and sang and whooped along to the newbies but the real excitement, the visceral howls and seismic dancing was always on hold for when they trotted ‘Mardy Bum’ out.
So what did I think when teaser (not officially on the album) ‘Brick by Brick‘ dropped a couple of weeks ago? I was okay. It was still heavy. The baritone vocals on the chorus freaked me a bit but it was, on the whole, catchy, drawing heavily on 60s/70s influences to evoke a mildly revolutionary sentiment. And now ‘Don’t Sit Down…’ attempts to deliver on Q Mag’s suggestion that the forthcoming ‘Suck It and See’ (June 6) will be ‘of a more accessible vintage’ than Humbug. Which sounds like good news to me. And yet it still sort of smacks of the moody Monkeys rather than the mischievous Monkeys that I had come to love. Thankfully Turner has been brought forward in the mix such that his inevitably excellent wordplay is on display and there are even a couple of ‘yeah yeah yeahs!’ thrown in for good measure but I can’t help shirk the feeling that this is more Metallica than Monkey. That James Ford (of perennial favourites Simian Mobile Disco) is still on deck helping out with production is a good sign as is the string of festivals across Europe lined up for the lads over the coming months. Whether they return to their roots or continue their rockier evolution on this fourth album, I’ll take heart in their staying true to the maxim that titled their debut; ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.
Arctic Monkeys – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair