Each week, we’ll take a retrospective look on albums which we think are either criminally underrated or woefully overrated, and why they actually rock/suck.
Being a British male of my age, I should worship the first Arctic Monkeys album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. In fact, what I’m about to say may well be considered sacrilege for those reasons. And I’m sorry, but it just isn’t as good as what people say.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad album. But the rave reviews at the time made it seem an awful lot better than it is (for which we really can’t blame Turner and co). There are certainly good songs: ‘The View From the Afternoon’ is a great album opener and the closer, ‘A Certain Romance’, flirts with genius with its passionate criticisms of the Reebok-wearing youths who, after a few cans, ‘think it’s OK to act like a dickhead’. ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ is grittier than anything their contemporaries were writing at the time and ‘Riot Van’ is a surprisingly affecting ballad about juvenile delinquency. But then after that it just feels like grasping at straws.
One of the main criticisms about pop lyrics is how they just repetitively drone on about clubbing and dancing, so why is it OK for four Sheffield lads with guitars to do the same? Six of the 13 tracks are about nights out in some way or another and, while they’re done in a very clever way, this repetition seems like a sign of a precocious songwriter who just hasn’t quite found his feet.
The most frustrating aspect of this album is the context – that the EPs they released before the album contained bonafide gems that showed genuine potential like nothing else in the last 20 years had. The reggae-influenced foresight of Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? would have been an inspired addition (or substitution) and I maintain that Leave ‘Before The Lights Come On’ is right up there amongst the best songs they’ve ever written.
Before people start lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks, I’m not saying this is a bad album. It was just a lull between their early EPs and the music they’d create over the following decade. Though, I’m sure people still think that whatever I say about this album, that’s what it’s not.
Listen to the full album here.