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Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare

Review by Richard Goodwin

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

SO HOW do you follow up the UK’s fastest selling debut album of all time? The Arctic Monkeys have decided on a quick return (just 14 months after the release of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not) and upon first listen it appears to be very much more of the same.

On repeat listenings, however, a clear progression is apparent through subtleties and nuances not found on the debut.

The first thing noticeable on this record is that the sound has been beefed up and the production is more polished. The influence of uber-mixer Alan Moulder is apparent in the heavier, more layered mix of the record and things kick off with the galloping drums of Brianstorm.

Arguably the album’s heaviest track, it works as a great opener and starts things off at a cracking pace, grabbing the listeners attention from the off. Apparently about a mad fan the band met in Japan, it’s the first of a trilogy of tracks about the Arctic Monkeys’ new fame.

Of these three tracks Teddy Picker is probably the pick of the three, taking a swipe at the NME culture of music journalism with wit and intelligence.

It’s a spiteful track and clearly the Monkeys are not too comfortable with the critical acclaim and hype they have been afforded over the past year or so. D Is For Dangerous continues this theme poking fun at the seemingly shallow music industry.

So far so Monkeys, no real surprises but then comes Balaclava and we’re into much darker territory than has been previously explored. Singing of a man running around back gardens with a balaclava conjures up a rather unsettling picture and the line “he won’t let her out his sight, now the shaggers perform and the daggers are drawn” confirms the dark content of the track.

Next up, we have the seemingly light track Florescent Adolescent but again there is a darker undertone. This is a more mature track about a sad 20-something who realises the exciting times of her youth are ending.

The track has a lighter more poppy feel augmented by organs that lends a summery feel to the song.

It’s at this point, however, that the album really takes off with the magnificent Only Ones Who Know. All shimmering guitars and soft, heartfelt vocals, the track is the first sign of real progression in the band’s songwriting. It’s touching and bittersweet, slowing the pace of the album just at the right time to give the listener a breather.

It’s followed by Do Me a Favour a mid tempo song about a relationship break up that continues the sad feel. It trundles along on rolling drums and light guitar until, at the climax, the song erupts into heavy guitars, giving it a rousing, satisfactory climax.

This House Is A Circus is a slightly odd track more in the vein of post-punk with odd tempo shifts and stuttering rhythms. It’s a strange track for sure, but provides some great riffing and ups the pace of the album once more.

If You Were There, Beware comes next and is another highlight. It’s another odd track with touches of neo-psychedelia with keyboard washes and odd time signatures – but it undulates between mellow and louder segments without seeming messy.

The only weak track on the album is The Bad Thing, an effort that just sounds like B-side fodder. In comparison to the rest of the album it sounds almost unfinished, almost as though it was included as an afterthought.

Lyrically, it’s about copping off with a married women but it just doesn’t sit well with the rest of the record and feels out of place.

Thankfully, the quality level is straight back up with the final two tracks being possibly the best on the album. Old Yellow Bricks references The Wizard of Oz and is built around staccato guitars and nervy drums. Keyboards again rear their head to great effect fleshing out the sound perfectly.

But it’s the final track, 505, that’s the real gem. It appears to be about Alex Turner’s uncomfortablness with being on the road and not being able to be at home with his girlfriend and sounds like the most personal track he’s ever penned. Musically, it’s a slow-burner, slowly building the sound and intensity and it’s a great way to finish off the record.

Although the album sounds more polished it’s not been smoothed enough to dampen the intensity. It’s not quite as exciting as its predecessor as the element of surprise has been lost but it’s certainly a more accomplished record musically.

The Monkeys aren’t really about breaking new ground or musical innovation but they make up for it with a genuine sense of honesty. They don’t appear to be trying to fit in and are simply doing their own thing which is refreshing in this age of band cloning.

Lyrically, Turner is still a class act and here he shows more maturity than his 21 years would suggest. His observations are accurate and truthful and he can go from spiteful to heartfelt with ease.

His love of hip hop is apparent and it’s his phrasing and vocals that really set the band apart and give them their own individuality.

Overall, Favourite Worst Nightmare shows progression from the debut and hints at a few directions in which the band could go, suggesting a longevity that few people predicted.

It’s an eclectic record but still seems like a cohesive whole and they haven’t fallen into the trap of over-stretching themselves by trying to do too much.

A less immediate album than its predecessor then, but more satisfying with repeat listening’s. If they keep this up, the Monkeys could be around for years to come.

Dowload picks: 505, Old Yellow Bricks, Only Ones Who Know, If You Were There, Beware

Track listing:

  1. Brianstorm
  2. Teddy Picker
  3. D Is For Dangerous
  4. Balaclava
  5. Fluorescent Adolescent
  6. Only Ones Who Know
  7. Do Me A Favour
  8. This House Is A Circus
  9. If You Were There, Beware
  10. The Bad Thing
  11. Old Yellow Bricks
  12. 505

  1. Great review. Couldn’t agree more with track selection. Well, except I dn’t think there’s a bad track on the album ;o)

    James    May 2    #