J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Playlists, podcasts and music from WQFS Greensboro's J's Indie/Rock Mayhem

Monday, April 30, 2007

Now Departing

Arctic Monkeys
Favourite Worst Nightmare
( Domino ; 2007 )

The Arctic Monkeys came storming out of the barn in 2006 like the best of all hot flashes. Sudden, jolting and nervy. The type of band you play the debut of over and over, but don't really expect much else from along the way. Yet, at the same time, there was a lot of hope here. You always want these types of bands, the ones that really seem to knock something out of the park the first time around, to be the next big thing that matters. And while critical opinion was divided about the Monkeys, I was solidly in the camp of those who thought Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was a rollicking, snarky, good time of a record that was smarter than most of the average rock and roll. Favourite Worst Nightmare isn't quite the party that its predecessor was. Much darker in lyrical and musical tone, it's an album of disillusionment and cynicistic paranoia. But it's also the better of the two.

The album opens with "Brainstorm," a charging opening salvo that echoes the opening of their first record. It's the kind of song that ought to open any record that's serious about rocking, but unlike the feverish build towards dancey celebration as on the first album, it's the more dour and critical "Teddy Picker" that follows. ("The kids all dream of making it / whatever that means / another variation on a theme" sings Alex Turner.) This sets the mood for the entire record, with only "Flourescent Adolescent" (musically, not lyrically) and "Only Ones Who Know" working as a break in the overall feel of the album. "The Bad Thing" becomes the album's most desperate and despairing nadir - a dissection of adultery that takes on a curious tone of resigned happenstance. ("Take off your wedding ring / but it won't make it that much easier / it might make it worse.")

While the band's influences still play a heavy role, they're becoming a larger part of what the Monkeys' individual sound is, not as a reflection simply of what they're trying to ape. The Monkeys don't sound like much anyone else in British music at the moment - barring a really smashing comeback out of nowhere by the Libertines. And this works both to their advantage and against it. For it, in the sense that they get a lot of attention out of the starting gate for their unique sound. Against it, in that it makes the critical mass that much hotter when they make a truly great debut and get ready to follow it up. Favourite Worst Nightmare is the sound of a band coming into its own at the right moment in time. This is a progressive record that doesn't sacrifice what made the debut so enjoyable, but making it on the whole more challenging and eschewing the 'adolescent' mistakes of their early work. It's a great next step and positions them where they'd like to be - as a band that will warrant repeat listens and listener loyalty as well.

Rating: E(xemplary)

[the grading scale uses the vowels: A(udiophillic), E(xemplary), I(ndifferent/nteresting), O(dious), U(nbearable) and sometimes Y(e gads, that's awful!) ]

Judge for Yourself:

Arctic Monkeys - "Brainstorm" (download)

Arctic Monkeys - "Fluorescent Adolescent" (download)

Arctic Monkeys - "The Bad Thing" (download)

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