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Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Release Date:2006

By Jess Harvell | Posted 2/8/2006

The million-year dark reign of Crazy Frog has ended. Released two weeks ago after an orgy of hype by a press starved for rock music, Whatever has become the biggest debut album in U.K. history, selling something like 360,000 copies in its first week. Even for a country where the pop charts are a deranged Darwinist experiment, this is saying something. Arctic Monkeys singer Alex Turner, possessed of some basic everybloke storytelling ability and a really thick accent, is suddenly hailed as the voice of his generation. Even The New York Times weighed in with the hyperbolic assessment, “You probably won’t hear a better CD all year long.”

That is, of course, patently bullshit. Leave aside the extracultural concerns rocketing the Monkeys to the top—most of which might as well be Klingon to an American audience—and what you’re left with is a solid “C” student of a Britpop album. The album’s themes—nightlife, girl troubles, adults and peers who just don’t understand—could be off any rock record from Bill Haley to Fall Out Boy. And instead of the boundless energy of Supergrass or the lager-soaked real-dude rockin’ of Oasis, the Monkeys are wracked with ennui. When Turner’s witty, it’s the wit of the small-town bore with big dreams, kitchen-sink emo with a cute accent and fashionable but fatigued disco swish. What’s worse, a quick scan of the lyric sheet proves Turner to be a straight-up misogynist in many cases, though in an acceptably passive-aggressive way, of course. (Since, you know, it’s okay to be a dick if you got hurt. Or if she doesn’t even know you’re alive. Or you’re just bored that day.)

All of which might even be palatable—how many of us were that small-town bore whaled on by meatheads or left drunk and lovelorn outside the bar µor even just a dick?—if the music wasn’t so incontinent. The songs may have all sounded the same on Franz Ferdinand, but the band worked that one glossy, needling idea for all it was worth. In the meantime we’re already drowning in homegrown, hook-free yarling. (Yellowcard debuted at No. 5 last week, after all.) Don’t go expecting another British Invasion just yet.

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