On October the 9th, 1940, John Winston Lennon was born, and along with him, a musical revolution that would soon take over the world. A man with no qualifications, a broken down family, and just a Gallotone Champion acoustic guitar strapped around his wait, he ceased to be simple skiffle group leader, dismissed himself from the Quarrymen, and became one of the four Beatles. Music had sprouted a four new famous names, that have remained just as famous today as they did in the 1960’s. Lennon, the cornerstone behind the group, as the main songwriter, of course, along with McCartney, Lennon composed some of the most influential rock ‘n’ roll over pop songs to date. There talent and impression on modern day music has been celebrated for decades, and continues to spread into new generations. In the short space of just 12 years, Lennon and The Beatles shot from the cold streets of Liverpool to nearly every CD cabinet in Britain. They were working class hero’s, who wrote working class songs, for a working class, British audience.
Alas, this is something that modern day artists have failed to conquer. American-esque perceptions on life, romance, and sexual orientation have blown into the ear drums of the great British nation. Instead of listening to the gritty, raw, post-punk guitar mania, infused with pop beats and the memorable lyrics that independent ears crave, we get given the overproduced, over censored corporate bullshit that producers and artists have been feeding us for years. However, in 2006, The Arctic Monkeys released the debut album, Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not, and Britain was no longer musically malnourished. Our ears hunger for the dirt off of the street being fed through the crackle of the microphone, and the sound of the guitar tuning, had been well and truly satisfied. The man behind the Arctic Monkeys genius, Alex Turner, said amongst their introduction to fame “We live in Sheffield and we write about the things we see here. What else is there to write about?”. That’s exactly what he said, and it’s what he and the Monkeys have given us.
Growing up in High Green, Sheffield, Turner was subjected to the normality of northern England, and led an unglamerous childhood. Turner was first exposed to music and given his first guitar on for Christmas in 2001, by his parents, both teachers, David and Penny Turner. Living next door to Turner, Jamie Cook would often find himself as a young teenager shut away in his bedroom, surrounded by The Smiths and Oasis records, broken guitar strings, and dubiously used tissues scattered around his room. Overtime, Cook and Turner would listen to each others records together, and let their interest in indie and rock music flourish. It wasn’t long until they started jamming, and fragments of the Arctic Monkeys began to cerment together. During their time at Stocksbridge secondary school, the pair met Andy Nicholson, the orignal Arctic Monkeys bassest, and they soon became a threesome, interested in making and expressing their broad passion for music. Matt Helders joind the band shortly after they had established themselves as a three-piece. Helders was quoted that the reason he was in the band playing drums, was because “that was only thing left to do”. At the Packhorse pub, Green Hill, Sheffield, in 2002, over a frosty draft pint, the Artic Monkeys as a full four piece band were born, and with them, a new kind of street-smart individual rock.
Upon the release of Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not, it answered the question brought up in the bands debut EP, Who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys? For the people of Britain who had been given what felt like an eternity of orchestral pop love songs, ‘jazzed’ up with retro drum beats and snythesised swirls in the chorus, more commonly known as every single Robbie Williams song, it was more than refreshing. It was a musical rescue. Alex Turner and the Artic Monkeys did what the Libertines did a few years before, and essentially, made music good again. Listening to their debut record, you’d think it was recorded down an alley way the other side of Greggs on the streets of Sheffield. The rawrety and grit put into the production is what, in my opinion, makes the album much, much more than just a regular indie rock album. It’s a piece of art, grafted from the working class, for the working class. Just like the Beatles managed to do, 50 or so years ago. Turners lyrics mirror thoughs of a street-smart teenager, which, at the start of the bands formation, is what the band were. Simpley, they were just a small group of beer drinking, post-student teenagers who wanted to make music. The opening track of Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not, ‘The View From The Afternoon’, the band don’t even try to hide what they are as working class four piece. Turner, fresh from Hill Green, sings with a strong Sheffield accent, and makes every single lyrics feel real. Every single chord is strung out so beautifully and rife with overdistorted mess, the very sound that points them out as a rock band. Cook carries out the lead guitar harmonies with Turners croaked, and throaty voice to perfection. Turner belows “I want to see you take the jackpot out the fruit machine”, and you can hear the fluency of his words spread out over the lead track, showing his listeners exactly what he means. He shows his listeners in the only way he can, and in a way he can relate to himself. No American pop “oh baby baby” bullshit lyrcis, just something that Turner probably picked up off at the pub and wrote down on a napkin before finishing his pint of Carlsberg special brew.
The Monkeys first single, ‘I bet that you look good on the dance floor’, was released on the 17th of October, 2005, and peaked as the UK number 1. Compared to the regulars in thw chart, it was a big surprise to nation. In turn, this surprise factor helped to get more people to listen to the track. Hidden behind the loudly distorted guitars, and the punchy snare kicks, ‘I bet you look good on the dance floor’ is about going on the pull in a night club, and catching the eye of a girl from across the bar. I bet you Westlife never wrote a song like that. Well, actually, I bet you that Westlife never wrote a song, period. Turner opens the verse with “Stop making the eyes at me, and I’ll stop making the eyes at you”, and puts a pin in modern day romance. He highlights the initial flirty awkwardness of firstly accidental eye contact with the opposite sex, and turns into a sexually suggestive phrase, that has been harmonised from gig to gig by every fan at one of the Arctic Monkeys show.
Prehaps the most emotionally complicated song on their debut album, ‘Mardy bum’, targets the argumentative nature of relationships. Looking at how America has glamorised love as a craved concept of simple perfection, It was new seeing a band challenge this idea. And the Arctic Monkeys were just the band to do it. Cook plucks out an ecsquisit guitar melody in the intro, which leads sublmiely into Turners harmonised lyrics. Turner crinkled guitar playing reflects his throaty, deep vocal line as he sings “that reoccurs, oh when you say I don’t care. You know I do, I clearly do”. He portrays the argumentive as naturally and realistically in his lyrics as it would be done in a film. His listeners. know exactly what he’s talking about.
Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not Is the fastest selling debut album to date, and it’s not hard to see why. Since the Beatles, there hasn’t been a band that has flaunted their chemistry, aggression, jittery indie beats better, ore more modestly, than the Arctic Monkeys. They carried their heigh and peak in fame and success into their second album, using their profile not as pressure, but as motivation. However, only three members managed to survive the “Monkey Mania” of the first album. Andy Nicholson left the band shotly before the bands North American tour, due to fatigue, and struggling to cope with the bands success and fame. Soon after, Nicholson announed that he had formally left the band. Nick O’Malley, the touring replacement for Nichilson, was drafted as the perminant replacement, and new Arctic Monkeys bassest. From their debut single from Favourite worst nightmare, ‘Brianstorm’, fans new without even reading or listening to the song caption, new it was the Arctic Monkeys. The rumble and aggression of their loud guitar music was more distinctive as ever. Turners Sheffield baritone bellowed back through the speakers, as he calously called out “Brian, top marks for not trying”, before sending the song into it’s violent verse. From this, the Arcitc Monkeys were growing as a band, and they started to think about what they were doing more and more musically. Produced by James Ford, who had previouisly produced Klaxon’s debut album, Myths of the near future, the band wanted every single note to sound the way they wanted it to. Every split second of feedback to be counter acted by every single tightly wound harmonic, and every tomtom to bounce with the punch of the snare. Like painting a picture, the Arctic Monkeys looked at their canvas, and they took control of the paintbrush, and painted a picture of their future. With over 700,000 sales, Favourite worst nightmare hit the top of the charts in UK and Ireland. Turner stated following the release of Favourite worst nighmare, “We want to do things our way, and people think it’s arrogance, so it’s inevitable some people will get tired of us.”, and he lets face it, he’s right. It’s so easy for a band to crawl up their own arces, and grown a strong sense of vanity over their own work, especially following similar levels of success that the Monkeys had, but Turner and co never did that. They’re always remained as modest, and as, I hate to phrase it this way, but, normal as the people they want their music to be listened to. With further singles from Favourite worst nightmare, ‘Flourescent adolescent’, and ‘Teddy picker’ blistered straight out of the amplifiers, and won two more top 20 spots on the UK singles chart, with ‘Florescent adolescent’ peaking at number 5. After the release of an impressive second album, the Monkeys earnt themselves a spot on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury, and a shot at the big time. Which, as you could imagine, they took, grabbing it with both sweaty hands.
After the release and further success from Favourite worst nightmare, the Monkeys took something of a holiday break, and went in an informal hiatus, which, to be frank, worried fans around the country. It’s always a worry when bands take a break, because you never know how long the hiatus could last. More to the point, Turner was having a good spout of success with his side project with Rascals frontman Miles Kane, and The Last of the Shadow Puppets. Thankfully, it only took two years until the band announced that they were back in the studio recording a third album with producer James Ford. However, the Sheffield foursome had worried fans by recording their first album away from British soil. The gracious heights of New York city would be the next chamber of secrets awaiting the recording, mixings and production of the Monkeys new album. It’s fair to say, that many fans were both excited, and nervous at this news. The result? Well, it has a mixed review of feedback.
Some percived the Arctic Monkeys third album, Humbug, as an Americanised take on the Arctic Monkeys, with a darker twist, and a different style of production, muting down the sound, but still keeping the Monkeys jittery beats, and aggressive guitar nature. ‘Crying Lightning’, the albums first singal, was just as broad and as battering to ears as we’ve learned to listen and love from the foursome. With the new darker, filtered production techniques, the album sounded much moodier than their pervious work. Humbug showed an inconsolable anger to the Arctic Monkeys, with such lyrics like “what came first, the chicken or the dickhead?”, on ‘Pretty Visitors. Such tracks as ‘Secret door’, and ‘Cornerstone’ portayed a contrasting, sentimental side to the Monkeys, that only really previouslypoked through their profile in songs like ‘Mardy bum’, ‘When the sun goes down’, and ‘Florescent adolescent’. Turner sings “I smelt your scent on the seatbelt, and kept my short cuts to myself” on ‘Cornerstone’, which glistens with the harmonic gargle and chorus of Cook’s guitar harmonies. This more American idea of love and pop song style still met a good reception with most dedicated Monkeys fans, but angered the more scepticle fans, into thinking that Turner and co had turned into Americans. Turner, especially, started to transform, much like Lennon did in the late 60’s. Humbug was the Arctic Monkeys take on Sgt Peppers lonely hearts club band, and Turner was taking a Lennon-esque turn. He threw away his polo t-shirts, and swapped them for Grandad shirts, and skinny beige chords, along with long, wavey brown locks. The Arctic Monkeys were growing up away from their known conforts in Sheffield, and a divide in their fans weren’t happy about it.
If you ask me, Humbug still remains a part of the Arctic Monkeys almost unbelivable influence on music in the modern age. As soon as they announce that they are back in the studio, or headlining Reading and Leeds festival, or tourung again, fans are straight onto the Arctic Monkeys fan page checking dates, information, and scrapping at links leading them to every single extortionate Asian porn website known to man, looking for leaks and demo’s. The Beatles gave us rock ‘n’ roll music in a way it was never presented to us before. The Arctic Monkeys did the exact same thing, just in a different way. They stuck two fingers up a modern pop, and showed our generation that guitar music wasn’t just cool, but that it was expressive. It showed us that song writing holds no limits in the modern day. Instead of using dance kits, midi-controls, auto-tune to create a record that modern day music lovers will adore. The Arctic Monkeys flaunted the facts, and re-wrote rock music in just three albums, and there is much more to come. This week, the band leaked their new single ‘Brick by brick’ on the internet. Just like Humbug, the single is already recieving mixed reviews from fans and critics. What’s next for the Arctic Monkeys? Only time will tell. As for their brilliance, it’s off the scale. And As far as I’m concerned, it’ll always be that way.
(Image from Google)
Hard copy of article: The Arctic Monkeys – The Beatles