The Arctic Monkeys are the most recent false idols, a gritty and raw punk rock band that deserve the attention they’re getting; the sum of all that’s come before them, sure, from Franz Ferdinand to the Strokes and the Libertines. But, as damn-perfect as their debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not may be, this gang of kids (with an average age of 19) are not the Second Coming of anything. Maybe that’s why it’s so ironic that the first track, “The View from the Afternoon,” opens this way: “Anticipation has a habit to set you up/for disappointment.”
Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not
Frontman Alex Turner’s lyrics couldn’t give two shits about being the biggest band in the U.K., even if Whatever People Say I Am set a record by selling more records in their native country than all other records on the Top 20 album chart combined. Instead of some predictably pretentious nonsense aspiring to be the greatest rock album ever, you get a slew of tracks swollen with snotty confidence (or is that indifference?). The only point seems to be to rock while spitting out effortlessly detailed lyrics that spin monotony into revelation, whether we’re talking taxi rides, dance-floor hook-ups, underage drinking, or pretentious bands that pretend to be from New York.
The Second Coming the Arctic Monkeys are not, but it’s a debut you won’t soon forget. Hopefully, its follow-ups will keep it from being referred to wistfully like The Stone Roses or Definitely Maybe. •