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10 Of The Best: Arctic Monkeys

Indie | Friday 5th July 2013 | James

You barely need to be conscious to know that Arctic Monkeys have announced their forthcoming record, entitled AM, will drop in September. To mark the release of the Sheffield quartet's fifth effort in seven years, we trawled through their stunning back-catalogue and selected the best cuts from their diverse career. Here's what we arrived at (no Submarine or The Last Shadow Puppets stuff though, sorry)...


'Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts' (2005)

B-side to 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'

Before the band's all-conquering, record-breaking and ultimately omnipotent debut, the Sheffield upstarts proved that they would be the latest addition to the Great British Band Club by displaying that rare and unique English ability: writing b-sides as powerful as a-sides. 'Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts' was musically naive, yes, but the youthful cheekiness in lyrics such as "there's always somebody taller, with more of a wit, and he's quick to enthrall her, her friends think he's fit" endeared Turner and his gang to the nation. It was the first time the band tipped their toes into the icy waters of heartbreak and loneliness, but the way it was delivered was a true and affable wit. With this, the band ensured that nobody would ever again "pinch their bird" nor "kick their head in".


'A Certain Romance' (2006)

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

Fact: every seminal debut album has had a grandiose closer. The Stone Roses delivered a statement of intent of epic biblical proportions with 'I Am The Resurrection', whilst Oasis effortlessly merged The Small Faces and The Jam into a warts'n'all romance tale 'Married With Children' before The Strokes' Is This It (to which Arctic Monkeys owe everything) was summed up neatly in the teenage frenzy that was 'Take It or Leave It'. Arctic Monkeys matched all these and then some, with the rumbling drums of Matt Helders seguing into the jangly guitar wizardry of Jamie Cook and Alex Turner. The band may have been young, but 'A Certain Romance' typifies the raw talent on display during their debut album. The song is almost delivered with a shrug - and you can't blame them - because they knew that they had delivered one of the finest debut records you are ever likely to hear.


'Still Take You Home' (2006)

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

"Don't believe the hype" Turner moaned at the start of the video of the band's breakthrough hit 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'. Don't believe the hype? Bollocks. You were right to believe everything you were told about this bunch, from the sell-out word-of-mouth explosive gigs at The Boardwalk to the huge record label tussle between music's biggest companies. They eventually signed to Domino, of course. On the basis of their debut record, they made the correct decision. The band may have shied away from interviews but they were marketed magnificently. Described as The Streets with guitars, 'Still Take You Home' told tales of an average night out but in a gloriously hilarious way. The lyricism is self-deprecating and relatable, with Turner lambasting a Topshop model with too much fake tan before, ultimately, realizing that he's every bit as drawn to her as the horde of Tarzans surrounding him on the dancefloor.


'Do Me a Favour' (2007)

Favourite Worst Nightmare

The faster, louder second album was rightly seen by many as a second-part installment of the band's debut. Whilst songs like 'Only Ones Who Know' and '505' perhaps best display the croon that Turner would eventually adopt and become famous for, 'Do Me A Favour' showed that Arctic Monkeys always had hard rock in them - it was just a matter of prizing it out. It is perhaps one of the first times that the lyrics came second behind the music, too, with explosive crescendos of guitars occurring towards the end with an expertly crafted Matt Helders drum beat which cemented his place as the best hard-hitting drummer of his generation. "Perhaps fuck off might be too kind" spat Turner, all the more aware that with every beat and breath his band were enticing you more and more.

 

'Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend (ft. Dizzee Rascal)' (2007)

B-side to 'Brianstorm'

Perhaps Dizzee Rascal deserves some credit for delivering such a powerful verse, but the real talent lies just before the two minute mark. A classic indie rock riff sauntered along before Turner's lyricism gets unbelievably powerful. It was with this song Turner's lyrics began to take a turn for the more abstract and dark, perhaps taking inspiration from the same influences which saw him write 'If You Were There, Beware' and 'Balaclava'. "Keep your charm where I can't see it, and your hands where I can" he sings after Dizzee has entered. The song was aired at Glastonbury Festival during the band's underwhelming 2007 headline set and was a highlight, before being aired again in December that year at a show in London. Naturally, due to the fact that it features a guest spot, the song is rarely played anymore. It's a shame, but if you want more of the same, check out Dizzee Rascal's 'Temptation' on his third LP Maths + English, which features vocals from Turner.


'Secret Door' (2009)

Humbug

Whilst Humbug is much-maligned - unfairly so - the truth is that it did polarize people. It also went some way to whittling down the Monkeys' fanbase. The Hackett beer-chuggers left, deciding to attend Enemy gigs because any band with long hair and who has song titles like 'My Propeller' weren't for them. It's a shame, too, because songs like 'Secret Door' and 'Cornerstone' were made for grown men to bellow at gigs whilst they fall about drunkenly holding their mates' shoulder. 'Secret Door', in particular, shows how abstract Humbug was in places with a bizarre chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus-chorus formula. The delight is all in the lovelorn strings and Turner drawl, though, which showed that just because Arctic Monkeys had got weird in the desert, they hadn't ever stopped being wonderful.

 

'Cornerstone' (2009)

Humbug

The aforementioned 'Cornerstone', is in our opinion (and this is a mighty brave statement considering the quality of the band under the microscope), Arctic Monkeys' finest ever song. Bridging the gap between youthful exuberance and stoner rock, the strings effortlessly blend in to a romantic tale about a long lost lover. "I smelt your scent on the seatbelt" Turner breathes romantically before an atmospheric and heart-tugging finale in which he discovers, after searching all this time, he may never find her. The video, too, was delivered in a howl of laughter which has no doubt inspired the hilarious comedic videos of the Suck It and See and 'R U Mine?' era.


'That's Where You're Wrong' (2011)

Suck It and See

Whilst Humbug separated the wheat from the chaff - and the men from the boys - Suck It and See was a much more easily accessible affair. Described beforehand by Matt Helders as "poppy", that statement is never better summed up by the sprawling album closer 'That's Where You're Wrong'. Suck It and See is at times too pedestrian and mid-paced to cement its position as the band's second best record - but 'That's Where You're Wrong' is every bit as powerful as you would hope. A basic guitar riff over dozing, summery Helders beats, the song  tells the tale of a band utterly at ease. "You're not the only one that time has got it in for" Turner sings. This was the sound of a band, who have grown up in the relentless media spotlight, coming of age gracefully.


'Love Is A Laserquest' (2011)

Suck It and See

Off the back of his break-up with his supermodel girlfriend, Turner finds himself in romantic and reflective form on 'Love Is A Laserquest'. Deeply engaging, the track is so poignant because it sees Turner ditching his rigid kooky-adjective-describing-abstract-noun formula for something more human. "When I'm hanging on by the rings round my eyes" he tells us, before debating whether he will ever find a better method of "pretending you were just some lover". The imagery is enticing and heartbreaking and sees Turner at possibly his most confessional. A beautiful, cinematic experience which sees the frontman delve into depths of lyricism not yet explored.


'R U Mine?' (2012)

AM

Kicking off the forthcoming record, 'R U Mine?' was first aired on Jones' Jukebox on KROQ last year. Out went the long hair and the Chelsea boots and in came Yorkshire Rose tattoos, rockabilly quiffs and Elvis twangs. The band are still not pretentious, though, as 'R U Mine?' contests. The lyrics bounce around madly - Turner states he took inspiration from hip-hop wordsmiths - over a fat guitar riff. The highlight, though, is Helders' backing vocals which sound haunting and gospel in the dark gloom of the track. 'Do I Wanna Know?', the second taster from the band's fifth album AM, was aired last week to rave reviews (and the band's highest chart placing since 2007) and perhaps needs a little more time to etch itself into memory before it can contend with these ten tracks. Not to worry, though, because coupled with 'Mad Sounds' (another beautiful ballad from the boys which was played at Glastonbury last weekend)...the future sounds as if it could not be brighter for this lot. Here's to another seven years...

 

By James Rodger @jamesdrodger

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