Arctic Monkeys, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’

By • May 7th, 2007 • Category: Album Reviews

The Arctic Monkeys can’t catch a break. Well, no, the band can’t catch a break after their records are released. Prior to each LP, the English lads have benefited from unprecedented hype, which is why the backlash has twice been so severe.

The quartet’s prophetically titled 2006 release, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” holds the title of being both the fastest- selling debut in U.K. history and the only album without a major label to debut atop the Billboard charts. And not surprisingly, it was met with a tidal wave of questions from people expecting something more than just punk-inspired dance tunes. The same recoil is already following the group’s sophomore LP, “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” which became the first record to have each track premiere on the U.K.’s singles chart.

For those keeping track, that’s two albums and three historic feats – all before the guys turn 22 years old.

The thing about the Arctic Monkeys is they have always been a tight band. But on records, bands are supposed to sound perfect, what with the enhancements in studio editing and all. So the focus has to be placed on arrangements, instead of on performance. And that is where the debut suffered – in concert the songs were impressive, but on headphones they sounded like any number of the group’s peers.

But not on “Favourite.” Maybe the Monkeys aren’t as arrogant as they seem, and they actually do read their own press clippings. Or maybe it’s just Alex Turner stepping into the role of a bona fide songwriter, instead of just a sharp performer. Whatever the case, it has made these dozen songs more thoughtful – yet somehow also heavier at times, and catchier at others – than that monumental first album. And, aside from the terribly-chosen first single “Brianstorm,” each tune has distinct melodies, noticeable harmonies and can actually be sung along with.

Which, in all its hype and fallout, is the greatest leap forward for the Arctic Monkeys. While the band will still keep earplug manufacturers in business, “Favourite” isn’t just loud and proud … but more importantly it’s smart and art, haunting and daunting, and surely impressive, not regressive.

Northern Star, May 1, 2007

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