Every so often, there’s an album that defines a generation. An album that catapults itself, piecing every moment together as if it was a soundtrack specifically made for your life.
As a millennial, born somewhere between 1980’s and early 2000’s, and having first heard an album that perfectly encapsulates what it is to be young and rebellious was the equivalency of meeting someone who just gets everything about you. It turns out to be an anthem for your life at the moment.
The Ramones, The Libertines, and The Strokes are among those artists with whom I fell in love with upon hearing their first albums that were anthems for different points of my life. That’s exactly what it was when I first heard Arctic Monkeys.
In Sheffield (specifically around the High Green area, tha knows) a group of teenage guys asked for guitars for Christmas. Despite barely even being able to play a note, they somehow formed a band, and thanks to guitarist Jamie Cook they ended up calling themselves Arctic Monkeys and back in January 2006, they released one of the most talked about, ground-breaking, and best-selling debut albums of the decade.
Many artists today have the internet to thank because of their careers (Justin Bieber, Lana Del Rey, and the Weeknd to name a few) and never did I imagine I’d be thanking MySpace for finding one of my favorite bands of all time but I’m sure more crazy things have happened. MySpace was, *ahem,* a cool site where you can basically create your own webpage. You could customize your friend list by picking which best friend would be featured in the coveted top 10 on your page but most importantly MySpace was beneficial for music discovery at the time.
We have many artists who made a meteoric rise thanks to MySpace (although not everyone was a winner… I’m looking at you Tila Tequila). Arctic Monkeys became an online phenomenon and found themselves in the epicenter of the online music scene without ever uploading their own music online. Beneath The Boardwalk is a collection of 18 demo songs that the band pieced together in 2004 when they were playing shows throughout their early days in Sheffield trying to make a name for themselves. Their notoriety grew by fans online who then would upload the demos to forums and file-sharing sites. They were a success before they had officially released anything, so before Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not was officially released, fans knew most of the songs but that’s how much of a force of nature they were. They become the fastest-selling debut in British music history.
We’re Arctic Monkeys, this is I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Don’t believe the hype.
Alex Turner famously uttered that line in the beginning of their video (featured below) for I Bet You Look Good On Dancefloor. It’s a track that perfectly encapsulates adolescence at its finest. It has a reference to Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, “Oh there ain’t no love no, Montagues or Capulets just banging tunes ‘n’ DJ sets ‘n’ dirty dance floors and dreams of naughtiness.” A Duran Duran nod “your name isn’t Rio, but I don’t care for sand,” and finding love on the dance floor even for just the night… It was a track that solidified and propelled these four guys onto music stardom.
Alex Turner has an adept and adroitly use of storytelling by way of his lyrics, they gave life to a generation who not only defined his youth but also ours.
While other bands were mimicking the genius that is Julian Casablancas, Alex Turner’s shy boy demeanor was relatable. His lyrics paired with the impressive power of Matt Helders’ agile drumming and down right cool as fuck attitude, original bassist Andy Nicholson’s deep riffs which hit you like a bus, and last but definitely not least is the enigmatic and storming tour de force that is Jamie Cook (he’s quiet but once you see the way he moves/plays you get why I compare him to a storm) are the undeniable results of an anthemic soundtrack to any teenager/young adult.
Arctic Monkeys weren’t over the top guys who tried too hard to be rock n roll stars, they didn’t find their ways to bad boy hall of fame or tabloid fodder a la Pete Doherty, they were just a group of scrappy guys who dressed in track jackets, jeans, and soccer sneakers. They often looked like they weren’t trying at all, which in music is instantly likable because fans can relate to you and what you have to say.
Arctic Monkeys have since grew up. Their music is ever evolving just like their look with their affinity for tailored suits, motorcycles, and leather jackets.. That relatable factor to their music has never left. Who hasn’t had a Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High Moment? or a Do Me Favour point with an ex? or a private yet scrupulous relationship a la Secret Door? or have a sad realization that Love is a Laserquest was written about your fresh breakup? Their music just hits home with me, it resonates, and clicks.. I’ve had many a-ha moments with Arctic Monkeys songs because it feels as if Alex Turner is in your head, writing these poignant or identifiable songs about your very life.
WPSIATWIN was brazen. It covers all kinds of relatable moments.. They warned us of the dangers of drunk-texting your ex years before Drake did (The View from the Afternoon), duping the scary bouncer while having a night of nightclubbing (From the Ritz to the Rubble), getting chased by cops after a drunken night out (Riot Van), a moody girlfriend (Mardy Bum), and so on. It was multifaceted and captures being a young Brit in the 21st century (although the rest of the world also seemed to relate).
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not has now found its way to new listeners and fans who are just now coming across this defining album which (for me) sums up what it means to be young, rebellious, and a bit lost. We all play it and feel that twinge of nostalgia which reminds us of drunken nights, young love, hooking up, and everything else in between.