Arctic Monkeys: The Best Band to Come out of England Since Oasis!? Debut Album Shows Promise

Every time a band comes out of England who’s mildly talented the amount of hype surrounding them tends to overshadow what the band is actually doing on record. They all get the same title from the British press as “The best band since Oasis,” which is a strange comparison because Oasis has only been adequately decent since their first two albums. The mere comparison just highlights that the desperation for something new is so great that even the mediocre bands have been elevated to levels far above what they deserve.

That being said, the Arctic Monkeys are the newest, “Next Oasis,” but they’re not mediocre. But to earn the amount of praise they are getting you either have to do something completely different or do what’s already popular, but do it much better. Arctic Monkeys on their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” choose option B, but they fall short. The benchmark so far for the sort of rock that Arctic Monkeys play is Franz Ferdinand’s “You Could Have It So Much Better.” What separates the two is that Franz Ferdinand has the element of sly humor to their songs that Arctic Monkeys lack. There’s something uncomfortable about a retro-sounding band taking themselves too seriously. It’s interesting that in one song there’s a refrain that says, “Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook,” when this album has stuck so closely to an already popular handbook. Arctic Monkeys want to seem smarter than they actually are.

“Whatever People Say I Am” does have an infectious quality to it. When it’s on it’s easy to not pay close attention and find yourself tapping your foot. The problem is that it’s too easy to not pay close attention to it. The album starts strong with, “The View From the Afternoon,” but the rest of the songs don’t really distinguish themselves. It’s biggest fault is that when I want to listen to something with this particular sound I’d rather listen to Franz Ferdinand. They do it better.

One exception is “Riot Van,” which is one of the few songs that really deviate from their fast and loud style. It’s slower and more melodic and probably the strongest song on the album, but its obviously not the kind of thing that this band should be centering itself around. Another deviation is, “Mardy Bum,” which showcases the vocals and melodies better than any other song on the album. That’s one strength that they can build on. The lyrics are contrived but their structure and delivery are very mature. That’s probably what most of the rave reviews are latching onto, but mature structure doesn’t always lead to great songwriting. Lyrically they just need to ditch the references to Shakespeare and Orwell. And the word totalitarian should never be in any song lyric ever.

It’s too early to write off Arctic Monkeys, but at this moment they’ve got a lot of growing to do. That’s why the focus shouldn’t be on this current release. They haven’t reinvented the wheel or perfected the mousetrap, but they show promise. The songwriting is tight and comfortable and shows and interest in going in different directions. They compress thirteen songs into forty minutes just in case their act may wear thin, which is definitely a possibility. They have the capability of expanding into more inventive territory, so this album could be seen as a warm up. I’m not ready to proclaim the Arctic Monkeys debut album as a ten out of ten as so many are, but they’ve caught my attention enough to be around to see what they do next.

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