Get Off The Bandwagon
Like over 360,000 other people in Britain, I bought the Arctic Monkeys album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not last week; it seemed as vital an accoutrement to my visit as a cell phone. Having listened to it three times on the iPod over the weekend, I’d posit that it lives up to expectations – those of about three months ago. In other words, it sounds like an extremely young band with an extraordinarily gifted lyricist singing instantly engaging and precociously intelligent songs about the harsh reality of teenage life in the north of England. Those songs, supposedly recorded at the healthily old-fashioned rate of one a day, have been left purposefully rough around the edges, ensuring Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not sounds less polished than its sales figures would suggest.
If I was an 18 year old indie kid, I’d probably consider it the best album of a very short 2006. I might even consider the Monkeys, whose success has been so instant that they’ve yet to make mistakes, the most exciting new band of the last few years. But I’m not an 18 year old indie kid, and no rock critic in his right mind would instantly position an album as crudely innocent as Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not among the Top 5 British Albums Ever. Then again, nobody said that the NME employs rock critics with any sort of mind, right or left, which is why the only British music weekly still in existence listed Whatever People Say I Am… at number 5 in its hastily assembled cash-in cover story last week. The Beatles, Blur, Pulp, The Clash, The Jam, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Specials, The Who…? None of them apparently recorded anything that carries a candle to the Arctic Monkeys’ debut.
This is the kind of bullshit that will kill the band’s credibility quicker than an overnight stay in the Celebrity Big Brother house. We determine “great” albums by a whole range of intangible criteria – and staying power is usually pre-eminent among them. Only fools and the NME proclaim eternal greatness upon week of release.