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

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

Arctic Monkeys

2006

Domino

I’m just going to say this to start off, as I’m sure it’ll become very obvious throughout this review: I’m a glutton for British culture. I love their slang and of course their music. I also find it fascinating to look at the parallels between their culture and American culture. It only seems fitting that an album that is a descriptor of youth culture in England would be right up my alley, and it is.

So, as I alluded to, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” the debut album by Arctic Monkeys, almost exclusively describes youth subculture in England. It’s even been theorized that its a concept album, mainly due to the album’s first person tales from people frequenting nightclubs.

The track arrangement very easily supports this hypothesis, as well. Without explaining how each song fits in exactly, the order of events through the album goes like this: a guy is talking with his friends about what they anticipate their night out to be like. Then, as they arrive to their location, he sees a girl who he thinks would look good dancing with him. He then is irritated by someone’s tales of their exploits, as they are clearly falsified. He then analyzes how everyone at the club is trying to get laid, whether they show it or not, including the guys trying different tactics to get the girls. He then finds out that the girl he’s been after, though a looker, isn’t very intelligent. Despite this, he says he will still take her home for the night. Then, as happens sometimes, trouble erupts during the rest of the night, resulting in him having to run and hide from the police, while he watches someone get caught. He then reunites with his friends, and describes their troubles getting a taxi back home. While in the queue for a cab, he and his friends explain what had happened with each of them while they were split up for the night. Then, the interesting twist comes, the protagonist actually has a girlfriend who is quite unhappy with him for going out with his friends.

The rest of the album seemingly is out of place, as it’s more about events of a night out, but I can think of a logical reason for it. Sometimes, when we tell a story, we leave bits out, or forget parts and have to add them in at the end. This is what I think this guy did, due to the fact that the earlier bits don’t exactly give us an impression that he’s very bright. So, he’s describing trying to be a wingman for a friend and not really having an interest in it. He then goes on to tell about how he or a friend were propositioned by a prostitute, turned her down, and then saw a different man pick her up, whom they think to be a regular. He remembers how they had some trouble with bouncers while trying to get into the club and how everything seems different in the morning than it did the night before. He then has a time of introspection about the culture he is in, about how it is in no way romantic.

So that’s the obvious common theme throughout the album, but there’re a few other devices thrown in for good measure. A small bit of irony with literary references is added, as the subject matter of the album wouldn’t be expected to be well-read. The title of the album is taken from the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe. Also, in “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor,” there’s a reference to the Montagues and Capulets of Shakespeare fame.

There’s also the reoccurrence throughout of the protagonist hating his life and culture, though he eventually absolves this by the end of the concept album. It all comes to a head in “A Certain Romance” where he sarcastically remarks “and ‘course it’s all okay to carry on that way.” However, he later realizes that he tolerates the behavior when it’s his friends acting that way: “And yeah they might overstep the line but I cannot get angry in the same way.”

So while I may be prejudiced to like this album due to it revolving around an English subculture, I can honestly say that it’s just good indie rock. I first found these guys on Later… with Jools Holland (go figure) and really liked them ever since. If you even remotely like British indie rock, definitely check this one out.

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