Friday, May 04, 2007

Favourite Worst Nightmare by Arctic Monkeys

Bands that manage to carve out a proper career, i.e. one that can be measured in years rather than records, tend to have a choice of methods by which to achieve this. First, the Coldplay method: Make an unobtrusive entry to the world with an understated, excellent record, then follow it up with a stadium-sized behemoth of equal quality, with enough single to get known, then reproduce it. Second, the Radiohead method: Release one song which takes over the world for a while, release it on a sub-standard debut record. Then, proceed to disown that record and
take over the world with a second, dazzlingly good record (bear in mind that this requires a dazzlingly good second - and third - record). Thirdly, there is the Live option: Release a solid first record, a classic second record, then slowly fade into obscurity/up your own arsehole. That said, they've been around for over 12 years, so they've done ok.
Or, the Arctic Monkeys' option. Their entry to the music world was unique enough; web-based promotion par excellence, coupled with a fresh, exciting, and, most importantly, really fantastic debut record, they hit unprecedented heights, and managed to get their name on the lips of almost everyone who cared who they were (and plenty who didn't). So the question stands: what to do next? Well the answer is out, and it certainly isn't what anyone expected. First, the new album was out little more than a year after the first, and second, it's uniquely wilful and independent. Favourite Worst Nightmare could easily have been a rehash of their wonderful debut, but instead, it's measured, mature and balanced. The funniest thing, though, is that there is still a clear intent to keep things upbeat. Slow songs remain a rarety, however, the subject matter is darker, hooks are suddenly almost non-existant and the 'drop-out' (when everything stops except for the vocals or one instrument), which the Monkeys proved they were so good at last time, is used sparingly at best.
'Do the bad thing/Take off your wedding ring', off Do the bad thing is a far cry from tales of hookers, dodgy bouncers, sleazy tools at the pub and tales of young men trying to get their ends in. However, it's all very natural and amazingly dignified for a band that could so easily have fallen into the celebrity trap, believed their own press, and vanished into high-profile obscurity. That they haven't combined with this record, is an indication of the brains contained in their four 20 year-old heads.
That said, this record does lack the urgency, vitality and sheer excitement of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, but it's still pretty loody good. And more importantly, it is a fair indication of the talent, nous and longevity the Arctic Monkeys possess. If Favourite Worst Nightmare is an indication of things to come, I think we can expect a wonderful career from these lads.
3 1/2 stars

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