The English band Arctic Monkeys made their debut in the indie rock and alternative scene in 2006 with the album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Composed mainly with tracks already released in free demos or through the Internet, it became the fastest-selling album in British history.
The boredom of nightlife
Inspired by garage rock revival and post-punk bands like The Strokes and The Libertines, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is fast and danceable. With a lo-fi sound, it strikes with its very rowdy rehearsal impression – the voice tracks blend in the noise, and thanks to the rapidly spoken lyrics, serves almost as a rhythmic track.
Not always in tune and often out of breath, Alex Turner sings words in a distinctive British accent as if he was spitting them out. Focused mostly on clubbing culture, lyrics narrate witty and ironic sketches of youth-related situations. Themes revolve around boredom, drinking, attempts at seduction, not liking other bands playing and thus getting bored all over again.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, the title of the album, is a direct citation from the film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Karel Kreiz. The film is also an adaptation of the homonym novel by Alan Sillitoe, who depicts realistic scenes from the ’50s and ’60s working class, in which Turner found similarities with Yorkshire’s nightlife.
Indie, the fun side of Rock music
Riffs are catchy and arrogant, frequently based on a few stopped chords and repetitions. Solos sometimes appear before the first verse, as a poignant whirlwind dragging the listener into the song. A few tracks make exceptions, like Riot Van and Mardy Bum. With their slow-paced melodies and bitter flavoured lyrics, they sound almost like ballads.
Besides, When the sun goes down tricks with a slow and gloomy mood before kicking off one of the most forceful songs of the album. Also, the theme of the song differs from the more lighthearted scenes of inconclusive youth. The protagonist is probably the client of a prostitute turned down by the narrator. A direct critique of the squalor shown in the local neighborhood after sunset, the song also cites directly the similarly-themed song Roxanne by The Police.
Overall Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not feels fun and canny. The album pretends it doesn’t take itself too seriously. But with more attentive listening, the songs show a good mastery of playing technique and musical composition. This album, in the long run, marked the ironic tone and playful general appeal taken by some bands of 2000’s indie rock, such as Cage the Elephant and The Wombats, that came to be seen as one of the main characteristics of this genre.