Easily the best post punk indie rock band to have come out of the UK in the last decade or so, it would be wrong not to dedicate one of our Classic Tuesdays to Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys. The four piece really redefined the meaning of indie rock, setting an untouchable precedent which has impacted bands over a decade later and changed the meaning of what rock music is.
The band formed in 2002, originally made up of Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Andy Nicholson. Full of blaring riffs and witty lyrics, early tracks from the band include Curtains Closed, Waving Bye To The Train or The Bus, Space Invaders and Cigarette Smoke, the latter eventually becoming Cigarette Smoker Fiona on the Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? EP (2006).
What made Arctic Monkeys such an incredible band from the off was their humbling honesty, and raw sense of relatability. Rather than their music being polished and professional, it was blunt and abrasive and real. Tracks from the band’s early music talked about moody girlfriends (Mardy Bum), dickhead bouncers (From The Ritz To The Rubble) and older guys nicking your bird (Bigger Boys And Stolen Sweethearts).
And above anything the band were like your typical group of lads; young teenagers having a laugh, hitting on girls and getting wasted every weekend. This hit young people in a way many bands fail to; their music really was music people could get, and they captured something genuine and timeless in their tracks which young kids still relate to in this current day and age.
That was just the start for the band though. Their debut, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not sold a record breaking 350,000 copies within a few days of its release, and no band has come close to this figure since. They went on to release the Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? EP, before Andy quit the band and was replaced by close mate of the group Nick O’Malley.
Whilst some fans worried this could damage the band, Nick’s introduction to the group was a game changer. Their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, shot straight to number one, featuring some classic tracks like Teddy Picker and D Is For Dangerous, as well as some genius b-sides tracks such as Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend and The Bakery. The band went on to release a further three albums; Humbug (2009), Suck It And See (2011), and AM (2013).
With 5 number one albums, seven Brits and two Glastonbury headline slots under their belt, it’s more than clear why the High Green rockers basically dominate the music industry. It’s not just on record where the band are unreal though- and it’s easy to see why, with collaborative help on occasion from artists like Josh Homme- they are also incredible live. I saw the band live for the first time in 2014 at Finsbury Park, and it was honestly one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. To play two sold out gigs at Finsbury Park was quite something for the band, a huge transition from their first gig at The Grapes in Sheffield (2003), where they made just £27 in ticket sales!
The band have built up vast dominance within the rock industry, and are definitely more sleek and polished now. But going from rough scruffy lads in a band to the sleek hair gel obsessed rockers they are now has been the most perfect, well thought out natural transition any band could make.
Lyrically, Alex Turner is a literal genius. Women and relationships are often a muse for him, with inspiration from past girlfriends like Alexa Chung and Arielle Vandenberg. Lines can go from romantically nostalgic and sad (such as ‘when she laughs the heavens hum a stun gun lullaby’) to cocky and edgy (my favourite being ‘give me an eeny-meeny-miny-moe…or an ipp dipp, dog-shit rock’n’roll’).
To me, as a lyricist Alex is on par with musicians such as Pete Doherty or John Lennon. The band have had their own projects on the side from Arctic Monkeys too, with Matt recording the drums on Iggy Pop’s 2016 album Post Pop Depression, and Alex working with Miles Kane on their The Last Shadow Puppets project, releasing two number one albums (The Age of The Understatement, 2008 and Everything You’ve Come To Expect, 2016). The return of Arctic Monkeys, which is allegedly coming about in the next year or so, is set to be the most exciting comeback from any rock band in years.
Top Arctic Monkeys tracks you need to know:
- Evil Twin
- Cigarette Smoker Fiona
- You and I
- All My Own Stunts
- Leave Before The Lights Come On
- Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend
- Plastic Tramp
- R U Mine?
- Pretty Visitors
- Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You
- Library Pictures
- I Haven’t Got My Strange
- Settle For A Draw
- Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?
- Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick
- Dancing Shoes
- From The Ritz To The Rubble