Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not - a retrospective

Less than a handful of days, until the next entry in the Arctic Monkeys release. Very few bands demand the level of discussion that they get when launching a new album. A band who’ve constantly evolved, not just musically, but with their choice of haircuts and facial hair. Debate whether Alex Turner has lost the plot. Or if he takes himself too seriously (I had one very brief meeting just before FWNM was released and he was very shy. Personally, I think the on stage and interview act, is just that. An act. A way of allowing himself to control the situation). Despite the evolution, they have nearly always excelled... this lead to a conversation in the office about the order of their best albums. My choices were described as being left field for the sake of it, or, “you don’t mean that.”

Therefore, I ordered we listen to the albums in chronological order, and then list them. Clearly, now I’m trying to make this site a success, it felt only right to do a review of each album, what it means to me, and try and decide. 

Straight away I boldly announced that Whatever You Say... was only their 4th best album. I MAY revisit this opinion after all 5 albums. 

I remember well before the album had been launched. Another band discovered on what I’ll always, lovingly, refer to as Dot.org (a story for another time). Some friends of mine actually put on Arctic Monkeys first London gig.

They arrived at a time when the ramshackle indie of The Libertines was fast running out of places to go, and once again, Guitar  music was being pronounced as dead. But as always, we had a new pretender to revive the genre. NME always keen to create a new scene, or build up a band, ready to knock them down once they’d got too successful were one of the first to champion a band with a terrible name. It’s so ingrained in our culture now, you don’t even think of it now. But it’s a terrible name. Good on ‘em I say.

After all the demos, came the single, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. An absolute banger, that rang not just in every indie disco through the country, but every club, and every radio station. It was a phenomenon. Straight to Number 1, with a simple, but great video.

Then came the album. Listening back now, it’s easy to forget how genuinely brilliant this is, and was at the time. As soon as the first drums of The View From The Afternoon arrived, followed by the clashing guitars, we knew they were more than just pretenders, then came Turners delivery. Less singing, more rapping, yet, in an Yorkshire accent, about every day life. The days of the mythical Albion replaced by reminders “You’re not from New York, you’re from Rotherham.” And nights out queuing to get into a club.

The album has few fillers, thought I Bet, Mardy Bum and When The Sun comes down, sound tired to me now. Maybe because all the Friday nights I spent losing my shit to these songs, or that they’re seen as near novelty songs, played at weddings to keep the indie kids happy. Of course I dance to them. Every time. 

The album contains a lot of happy memories, and there are genuinely great moments. Some of the bass riffs and drum lines don’t get the credit they deserve, considering they were a band still very much in the learning stages. The album belongs to that time, but I rarely feel any need to revisit it now. I personally think a few of the songs, the singles have aged quite badly, and Certain Romance seems quite quaint now, and compared to their following album closers it doesn’t really stand up.

Revisiting it reminded me a lot of moments I’d forgotten about. The ending to Vampires is thrilling. Ritz to the Rubble sounds like just the end of the night and the following morning.

It is a great debut album. One of the best. It revolutionised British music, and was a mere glimpse into what they were to become. It had a lot of great songs. Great songs that were full of energy that you want from 4 mates being allowed to play music together for a living, yet personally at least, it doesn’t provide me with the same love some of their other albums give me.

Maybe I’m being harsh. Like the band, I’ve grown up, we all do (well most of us). Songs about rowing with a bouncer about entry into a club don’t entertain me in the way they did when I was that person rowing with a bouncer about getting into a club. Maybe I wish I still was!