Arctic Monkeys – Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007): Review

favourite

Produced by James Ford and Mike Crossey
Label – Domino

The critical diversity that had greeted High Green’s finest stemmed from trumped up accolades that heralded Arctic Monkeys meteoric rise to indie and pop stardom. The headlines were widespread, and the public viewpoints were powerful enough to split the atom. Retro new wave “wannabe’s” or the vital cog in engineering a resurgence in wordy art rock for the new millennium. They were, and still are important to the UK music scene but did the bluster and media hyperbole fully support the resultant back catalogue of work. Their debut album was a fine collection, filled with literary tales of social misfits and un-inviting urban gathering haunts. What it gained in Alex Turner’s lyrical vision was at times burdened by a mediocre musical performance, and ultimately, however good “Whatever People Say…” was, it was only half the revelation it promised to be. Turner is nothing if not prolific and less than a year on the vital follow up “Favourite Worst Nightmare” came with an enormous weight of expectation. The lead single released previously (“Brianstorm”) hadn’t been received well. Critics stated its lack of a chorus, and the lead riff that gripped the song was closer to hard rock than alt/indie music. For this reviewer it’s a rip snorting introduction to the album, high speed, adrenalized and concise, with a clever false fade as Turner tries to figure out whether the backstage Japanese scenester is as cool as he looks (“We can’t take our eyes off your T-shirt and tie combination, see you later, innovator”).

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The rest of the album moves little from the blueprint set on their debut, with more poetic (and mostly interesting) observations from Turner, allied with trademark jerky licks firmly rooted in UK new wave music from the late 70s. On the up-tempo numbers the band certainly play harder than before, particularly drummer Matt Helder, who realized (having listened to QOTSA live) he wasn’t attacking the tubs with enough venom. Lyrically, Turner is less story telling voyeur, more awkwardly intimate, opening up to reveal weary intimate relationship problems. “The Only Ones Who Know” perfectly captures those first fumbling moments of love, and the excellent closer (“505”) shows the singer’s desperate efforts to maintain a relationship whilst forced away from home. It’s a rarity for one to have sympathy for a member of the rock ‘n roll community, but Turner makes every effort to pull the heartstrings. His mistrust for the industry he is an integral part of (“Teddy Picker”) is biting, embittered, and at odds with most of his ilk. Fame doesn’t come easy for the 21 year old and he’s constantly playing down the enormous levels of hype surrounding the band. Overall it’s another worthy offering from a group that were undoubtedly moving forward. The performance is tight, and in their leader they possess a prime storyteller with a wry, astute and witty eye for the trials of life.

“Favourite Worst Nightmare” is a harder affair than its predecessor, less jagged and probably more cohesive. Arctic Monkeys are vital, but we still await the era defining classic the band are truly capable of. Another work in progress.

8/10

Track Listing
1. “Brianstorm” 2:50
2. “Teddy Picker” 2:43
3. “D Is for Dangerous” 2:16
4. “Balaclava” 2:49
5. “Fluorescent Adolescent” 2:57
6. “Only Ones Who Know” 3:02
7. “Do Me a Favour” 3:27
8. “This House Is a Circus” 3:09
9. “If You Were There, Beware” 4:34
10. “The Bad Thing” 2:23
11. “Old Yellow Bricks” 3:11
12. “505” 4:13

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