When Arctic Monkeys came good on an endless whirl of feverish underground hype in the early ’00s, it was evident that the course of indie rock had changed forever. Here was a band that was plain-speaking, feisty, exciting and seemingly without ego, that proved their mettle by shunning publicity, and had sold out the legendary London Astoria (now sadly closed, 2000-capacity in its prime) before they had even signed a record deal.
Six chart-topping LPs, two live albums and two EPs later, the band – frontman Alex Turner, lead guitarist Jamie Cook, bassist Nick O’Malley and drummer Matt Helders – have undergone several shapeshifting transformations. From the punkish nature of their earliest material to the soaring guitar pop of 2011’s ‘Suck It And See’ and the experimental opus that is 2018’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, they have remained one of the most groundbreaking and influential acts of our times over the past decade-and-a-half.
The Sheffield gang’s illustrious career is celebrated in this bumper list. For the sake of clarity, all unreleased tracks and demos – including those from 2004’s now-infamous ‘Beneath The Boardwalk’ collection – are disqualified, as is any material under their sometime Death Ramps alias, alongside the wealth of covers they have released out over the years. Dig in!
This straight-up rock tune was recorded during the ‘AM’ sessions. And let’s say it’s not quite up there with ‘R U Mine?’.
‘I.D.S.T’ is the clear victor of the ‘How many times can the title be repeated throughout the entire song’ challenge.
The B-side to the explosive ‘R U Mine’. Not as good as ‘R U Mine’.
101‘Chun Li Flying Bird Kick’ (2005)
There are no words on this ‘Street Fighter’-inspired tune, which picked up a Grammy nomination (for Best Rock Instrumental Performance in 2007). It’s one of the mere five that the band have earned across a wildly illustrious career – a true injustice.
A funny one, this. It’s far from clear how seriously we should take ‘Sketchead’, a jumpy punk ditty that tackles a louche-sounding character with relative gusto. Yet its sandpapery hooks make it sound like a bit of an afterthought.
99‘If You Found This It’s Probably Too Late’ (2007)
On this so-so B-side, scatter-brained melodies fight for dominance in a pretty claustrophobic space. There is a lot going on here.
98‘Fright Lined Dining Room’ (2009)
This is the final song from the 10” vinyl release of ‘Humbug’ single ‘Cornerstone’. It’s quietly cunning lyrical content is overall burdened by a hopscotching rhythm section.
This instrumental burbles on for five minutes before Turner breaks into a murmuring half-rap, which only lasts for (drumroll, please) 15 seconds.
96‘The Blond-O-Sonic Shimmer Trap’ (2011)
This middling track isn’t particularly offensive, but is submerged in a shadowy pool of reverb, the mixing shoddy.
95‘The Bad Thing’ (2007)
There’s a reason this ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ track hasn’t ever been played live. The final lyric, “She said, ‘It’s the red wine this time,’ but that is no excuse” is good, though, as is the abrupt ending that acts as a full stop on the statement.
94‘Da Frame 2R’ (2007)
Ostensibly pronounced “The Frame Tour”, this is a bonus track from the Japanese release of ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’. The verses are quick-witted, sure, but it becomes increasingly hard to take in all the song’s elements.
93‘I Want It All’ (2013)
It’s a bit of a shame that ‘I Want It All’ made the final cut for ‘AM’, the band’s most consistent and complete record to date.
92‘Joining The Dots’ (2010)
There are fleeting moments where this misty number twinkles with promise (the distortion-heavy chorus skyrockets to another plane), but it lacks the essential, magnetic pull of your typical Monkeys tune.
91‘What If You Were Right The First Time?’ (2007)
Excess is pared away on this repetition-heavy track, where riff after riff crashes down at a rate of knots. It’s a noisy indie rock song – end of.
90‘Dangerous Animals’ (2009)
With its swampy riff progression and mnemonic refrain – be honest, “A-N-I-M-A-L!” is a pesky earworm at best – the languorous ‘Dangerous Animals’ meanders a little.
89‘The Afternoon’s Hat’ (2010)
A chilly vibe sweeps through this ‘Humbug’ outtake. The lyrics remain frustratingly opaque and the vocals continuously muted, both reinforcing the numbness that hangs over the languid track.
88‘Stickin’ To The Floor’ (2006)
This is arguably Arctic Monkeys at their least melodic, a throttling thrash of double-speed aggression. It is perhaps best to enjoy the goofy parts, rather than the serious ones.
87‘Don’t Forget Whose Legs You’re On’ (2010)
Wrapped around an uncomplicated piano melody repeated for three and a half minutes straight, ‘Don’t Forget Whose Legs You’re On’ is an extremely bleak song, but partially redeems itself with Turner’s darkest vocal performance yet.
86‘Too Much To Ask’ (2009)
Wrestling with the unbearable pain and embarrassment that accompanies rejection, this B-side throws the following plea into the ring: “When you fit me / As Sunday’s frozen pitch fits the thermos flask…”
85‘Still Take You Home’ (2006)
‘Still Take You Home’ is one of many grand examples that Turner’s lyrics make for the perfect Instagram caption: “You’re a Topshop princess / A rockstar, too.”
84‘Golden Trunks’ (2018)
This one perhaps falls a tad short of ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’s grand, seemingly endless ambition.
83‘Fire and The Thud’ (2009)
This is a dark and emotionally distant mood piece that gives way to intense self-doubt. It’s not vintage Monkeys, but the release of layered harmonies towards the end is gorgeous.
82‘Cigarette Smoker Fiona’ (2006)
A remake of the fiery demo that featured on 2004’s fan-made ‘Beneath The Boardwalk’ collection, this track about a tricky house party flirtation is driven by a level of bullish confidence that only a VK-bladdered teenager could conjure up.
This ragtag bop could essentially be a hidden track on the band’s equally scrappy debut album. The best of a bunch of B-sides to the outstanding ‘When The Sun Goes Down’, it’s a dose of energetic fun that encourages multiple listens.
80‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I Moved Your Chair’ (2011)
This one cruises by a little too easily on a big, gnarly chorus, and it feels like whiplash to go from the ever-shifting textures that permeate this single’s surrounding album ‘Suck It And See. That said, fans love it.
79‘You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me’ (2006)
If you can get past the fact that the title is a right ol’ mouthful, this song isn’t all at all bad. The shout-speak verses make for an entertaining two-minute head-banging session, yet it isn’t half as interesting as the rest of ‘Whatever People Say I Am…’.
78‘Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?’ (2006)
Paired with a ridiculously catchy refrain, this track sees the band take aim at naysayers: “tell ‘em to take out their tongues,” Matt Helders sneers. The track strikes a fair balance between whimsy and moodiness.
77‘Settle For A Draw’ (2006)
Upbeat and well-intentioned, this is a perfectly fine tune. The hi-hats pop and the guitar groove shimmies along on this early, non-album cut, and there’s an endearing youthfulness to the intro: “One, two, three, four! (Roll that faster, man).”
76‘Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…’ (2006)
Thriving off a punk-leaning spirit, this debut album track swaggers forward in a blaze of gritty guitars and drums that smack harder by the second. Try not humming along to the robust bassline.
Even if this one is rather clunky and monotonous in places, the incredibly tight riffs and unexpected, explosive outbursts save the day. It’s pushed forward by enough revved-up adrenaline to make you feel invincible.
74 ‘This House Is A Circus’ (2007)
‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ was the first Arctic Monkeys album to be helmed by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford, and the LP’s sharpened focus on punchy hooks and melodies comes to the fore on songs like this one, which thrives off a full-blooded delivery.
73‘Plastic Tramp’ (2007)
Featuring some rather nifty guitar work from Miles Kane (the de facto fifth Arctic Monkey) the guitar lines on this ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ B-side are vivid and expressive, and build up to a superb a Capella section that’s buoyed by a thrum of bass.
72‘The Bakery’ (2007)
Shrouded in an atmosphere of self-loathing and dim romance, this is where Turner’s vocals soar over a melancholic guitar-pop tune. Lyrically, the temptations of life on the road are brushed off with an insouciant shrug, and the instrumental sounds purposefully lackadaisical, as if to harbour the point.
71‘Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend’ feat. Dizzee Rascal (2007)
Heeere’s Dizzee! The east London MC booted a much-needed kick up the arse this murky ditty (which appeared on his third album, 2007’s ‘Maths + English’).
70‘Science Fiction’ (2018)
‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is a largely excellent album with its recurring dystopian themes and deeply affecting songs. But sometimes it all feels a little too intense, and this track stands as evidence of that. A menacing hulk of itchy, nervous, ‘Humbug’-esque space-rock to bug out to, ‘Science Fiction’ isn’t quite as deep as you want it to be.
69‘I Haven’t Got My Strange’ (2009)
Amidst a mountain of zippy riffage here lay lines so pointed and sharp that it often takes a minute for them to click. “I had a hole in the pocket of my favourite coat / And my love dropped into the lining”, Turner intones of an affair atop a sprightly rhythm. It’s remarkably dexterous, both lyrically and musically.
68‘You’re So Dark’ (2013)
The Hollywood-worthy drama of ‘You’re So Dark’ could be attributed to the time the band spent living in LA while recording their fifth album ‘AM’. With name-checks to gothic literary giants H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, it can flip from coquettish to macabre in an instant, and portrays a fatal dalliance so vividly that it is worthy of an Oscar.
67‘Brick By Brick’ (2011)
A surprise release that dropped without any form of explanation, ‘Brick By Brick’ marked the exact moment that the band stopped taking themselves so bloody seriously. A galloping, deliciously funny racket made up of just 27 words, the lead single from ‘Suck It And See’ is a Grade-A troll.
66‘Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts’ (2005)
Lyrically, the classic B-side to ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ reads like the script of a telenovela. Despite being set in God’s Own County – rather than a glorious Latin American city – the narrative boasts all the right tropes: a comic love triangle! An empty threat! A green-eyed monster trying to wreak havoc! It’s cheesy and transportive all at once.
65‘She Looks Like Fun’ (2018)
When listening to this song in 2020, it is impossible to turn a blind eye to how spookily prescient the lyrics are. “No one’s on the streets / We moved it all online as of March”, goes the bridge, sounding a little too on the nose for this pandemic-stricken year. It’s a gleaming example of a band who have always been ahead of their time.
64‘Riot Van’ (2006)
Picture this: the sun has set, the heady rush from another night of underage drinking has worn off, and the coppers are circling like buzzards– bring on the unfortunate consequences! This delirious image forms the crux of ‘Riot Van’, a smartly observed account of an unhinged night out.
63‘Potion Approaching’ (2009)
This sprawling stoner rock jam is hypnotic enough that one listen can leave you feeling like you’ve tripped into a surreal film scene. Turner’s smoky vocal sounds so close it’s as if he is lurking in the near-distance, while the brisk tempo changes are spine-tingling enough to soundtrack that moment in a horror film where the car won’t start, the villain approaching.
Peer beyond the unending criticism of technology here and focus on the intensity of the whirring instrumentals that surround this dazzling moonshot – the mechanical drums are played on a loop right until the end. ‘Batphone’ is intricately detailed in every sense of the word: each passage aims to stun, and that it sure does.
61‘Dance Little Liar’ (2009)
Legend has it that a demo of this smoldering tune was what convinced Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme to invite the band to his Joshua Tree studio, Rancho De La Luna. There certainly must be some truth in that – here, the desert influences are loud and clear: a psychedelic mid-section, some sludgy stop-start passages and snarls of fuzz.
60‘My Propeller’ (2009)
Is it an elongated innuendo? A cautionary euphemism for cocaine? The true meaning of this brooding number has long been hotly debated, and still seems to elude everyone but the band themselves. But let’s be real: the crafty refrain “‘Ave a spin on my propeller…” can only point towards the former. Those cheeky Monkeys…
59‘The World’s First Monster Truck Front Flip’ (2018)
Every track on the taut and world-weary ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ possesses the ability to shake and rattle the soul, but this unnerving lullaby is where the band court and juxtapose darkness with curiosity via the most sublime of arrangements. “You push the button and we’ll do the rest”, they chime, mocking the warping effects of technology.
A song that is both equal parts jarring and delightful; there are splinters of excellence here. ‘Nettles’ finds Arctic Monkeys hark back to their scrappy pub rock roots, as they warp a DIY approach with surging riffs and daft humour (“He was a toothpick and the garlic and the cinder”), while being spurred on by Helders’ series of frenetic drum grooves.
57‘Mad Sounds’ (2013)
An inspiring ode to the power of song in the same vein as the ABBA classic ‘Thank You For The Music’ (we’re not joking!), this heart-swelling tune gradually shifts into a delightful waltz that feels like basking in the swirling lights on the dancefloor at the end of the night. It is a quiet show-stopper that finds new ways to reward every time you listen to it.
56‘Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You’ (2013)
On what should have been an album track, an unraveling romance is unpacked over a foot-stomping beat and dirty guitar licks. The devilishy catchy B-side to ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ finds itself flirting in and around a dead-end dive bar, where daring glances are shared and avoided. It’s fun, it’s cheeky, it’s saucy.
55‘D Is For Dangerous’ (2007)
An agile call-and-response vocal trade between Turner and Helders slams head-on into this straight-up indie banger. Boosted by snapping percussion and a zig-zagging bassline, it’s deceptively raunchy (“The dirty little Herbert was seeking an escape / But the place was well-guarded”), and the band embrace the intensity of it all with aplomb.
54‘Red Light Indicates Door Are Secured’ (2006)
This walloping track retells a laddish tale as old as time: a seriously silly night out on the town that climaxes with a scuffle at the taxi rank. The storyline manages to pluck minutiae from a blurred version of events, while musically, repeated loops of a hefty, top-tapping bassline keeps things as uncluttered as possible.
53‘Only Ones Who Know’ (2007)
As the sole ballad of ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ – the meatiest, heaviest Monkeys album of ‘em all – you’d be forgiven for overlooking this outlier. But let it be known that this swooping, wistful chamber pop number is a welcomed acoustic turn on an album that hops between sharp-toothed riffing and relentless bolts of noise.
52‘I Wanna Be Yours’ (2013)
For anyone well-versed in Arctic Monkeys folklore, John Cooper Clarke has always been a crucial figure. Rumour has it that not only has Turner does have the punk-poet icon’s name tattooed on him somewhere, but that the band stuck with their much-hated name after Clarke gave it the nod of approval. This ballad adaptation of his 1982 poem is a fitting tribute, then.
‘Fireside’ has probably broken its fair share of hearts over the years. Reeling from the dissolution of a long-term relationship, it’s here where Turner speaks his upset plainly: “And I thought I was yours forever / Or maybe I was mistaken?”. But he isn’t moping. This song’s jaunty percussive section is too immediate to allow for any sort of pity party.
50‘She’s Thunderstorms’ (2011)
You know that early stage of dating someone where the giddiness threatens to overwhelm? And the newfound excitement hits you with the same sort of power as a hammer dropping on a high striker with enough force to knock the bell? Yeah, that’s exactly what listening to the lovestruck ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ feels like.
49‘No.1 Party Anthem’ (2013)
The neon-hued title for this track completely belies its beautifully melancholic approach, from the sombre lyrics to the looping production that comprises keening piano and waves of tender acoustic guitar. It’s an immensely moving, nostalgic ballad where the most resonant lines (“The look of love, the rush of blood”) are belted out with heart-on-sleeve conviction.
48‘Black Treacle’ (2011)
Shot through with purposeful imagery, this dreamy reverie fuses flickering guitar loops and a simple chord progression – the result: a bittersweet, emotionally inflected love song dedicated to a lover and their vice. Within this warm, exuberant dreamscape of a track, the band’s feather-light harmonies drift away but never get lost in the mix. Sublime.
47‘Knee Socks’ (2013)
The hyper-specific details of ‘Knee Socks’ are hard to ignore. Who was it that refashioned the sky blue Lacoste in question? And where on earth did they go? Alas, the cryptic lyrics here refuse to offer up a satisfactory answer, but by indulging in a hip-shaking rock groove, this stunning track instead directs your attention to its addictive staccato rhythm.
46‘No Buses’ (2006)
Give this song three minutes and it’ll bring you to tears. Grappling with the soul-crushing feeling of an inevitable teenage breakup, this is where youthful abandon gives way to weight and blame. “Lady, where’s your love gone?” sighs a particularly exhausted-sounding Turner. His voice is tender and resigned, as if he is grieving.
45‘All My Own Stunts’ (2011)
By the time ‘All My Own Stunts’ appears seven songs into ‘Suck It And See’, the scene has already been set: the love is vast and flowing. But when this mid-album track gallops in with lyrical guitar work and soaring, velvety melodies, the sense of romance really picks up the pace. Giddy up!
44‘The Jeweller’s Hands’ (2009)
Sometimes romantic, sometimes frightening, the strangely charismatic ‘The Jeweller’s Hands’ is the swelling peak of ‘Humbug’. The orchestral flourishes, sputtering drums and driving guitar perfectly complement each other until the 3:07-minute mark, when the chugging instrumental spirals into something malicious and dark: a psych-rock freakout or a bewildering trick.
43‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ (2018)
“Pull me in close on a crisp eve, baby / Kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob”, Turner sings with a warbling falsetto, in a way that helps this eyebrow-raising in-gag almost make sense. The narration here – however ludicrous it may be – is direct and self-assured, and spotlights some restrained crooning before the harpsichord kicks in.
42‘Reckless Serenade’ (2011)
Precisely one minute into this soft-rock bop, Turner lands on something magical and from there, everything ascends. “When she laughs the heavens hum a stun-gun lullaby”, he sings, his vocal spirited and rosy. Cushioned by a doo-wop bounce and a streak of romantic guitar lines, this is the type of song you can almost feel. It’s sort of contagious.
41‘Snap Out Of It’ (2013)
Full of bounce and shine, ‘Snap Out Of It’ is a delightful shot of jangly pop escapism that shimmers over a snappy melody and insistent backbeat. Each line is enunciated with precision and a playful wink, which makes the pointed lyrics (“Darling, how could you be so blind?”) all the more striking and replayable. It’s a vibrant moment of casual magic.
40‘Piledriver Waltz’ (2011)
There are two versions of this song and frankly, it’s difficult to pick which one is superior. The first – which appears on the Submarine soundtrack – is more gently delivered, yet the second is more technically resounding. But both are so profoundly wistful and intimate that listening to ‘Piledriver Waltz’ feels like eavesdropping on a painfully protracted breakup.
39‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ (2011)
This is the closest to a pure pop song that Arctic Monkeys have ever ventured, and it illustrates romantic wonder with heart-stopping elegance, whilst revelling in the tiniest of life’s details. “Her steady hands may well have done the devil’s pedicure”, Turner blushes.
38‘American Sports’ (2018)
‘American Sports’ illustrates the view from Tranquility Base, the band’s fictional hotel-come-taqueria for the 2018 album. It’s smart, it’s gutsy, and lyrics of survival, religious control and technological destruction paint surreal and compelling pictures of dystopian ideals atop spacey reverb and ever-shifting piano.
37‘Library Pictures’ (2011)
Loud, over-the-top and absolutely tongue-in-cheek,‘Library Pictures’ is equivalent to swallowing a dictionary and washing it down with a can of Red Bull. Nursery rhymes (“Give me an eeny, meeny, miny, mo”) cartwheel over vaguely menacing drum kicks, and Turner even finds space to poke fun at his metaphor-drunk lyricism: “Draw some ellipses to chase you round the room / Through curly straws and metaphors and goo”.
36‘If You Were There, Beware’ (2007)
Arctic Monkeys’ world got a little louder in the year following their seminal debut album, and this song goes big to meet the surrounding noise of the paparazzi who would hound them. Squalls of reverb-y drum rolls and vicious guitars circle around as the band contemplate discarding it all; their distress real is, their frustration earned.
35‘Dancing Shoes’ (2006)
“Get on your dancing shoes / You sexy little swine”, exclaims a sprightly Turner amid a whirl of pummelling riffs and shoutalong verses that started from sheer chaos and developed into steely indie-rock stomp. All this teasing and taunting becomes increasingly hard to resist, and perfectly captures the rabble-rousing spirit of early Arctic Monkeys.
The sweeping curtain call of the ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ era, the chorus-less ‘Anyways’, is disarmingly self-reflective. There are times when Turner can’t even finish his thoughts. It’s as if he’s a stone’s throw away from the listener – we can hear his footsteps, the yearning in his voice, the ghosts that linger in his head.
33‘Teddy Picker’ (2007)
By this point, singing about fame and all its spoils was nothing new for the band (the titular song of 2006’s ‘Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?’ EP bled this arc dry), but this ferocious tirade against the too-much, too-quick mentality of the music industry is razor-sharp and relentless. “Don’t concern us with your bollocks”, they scoff. Right on!
Obscured by the regality of its A-side ‘Cornerstone’, this hidden treat is one of the greatest examples of Turner’s nimble, vivid and wickedly funny wordplay. It offers a pin-sharp takedown of the guy we all love to hate: the experienced heartbreaker with an enviable superiority complex. Think Ross from Friends, sans the leather trousers.
31‘Despair In The Departure Lounge’ (2006)
The finest cut to be taken from the haphazard ‘Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?’ EP, this tear-eliciting number reveals the band at their endearing best. Simultaneously heartfelt and charming, each verse intensifies that queasy, helpless feeling of a relationship divided by distance, both romantically and geographically.
30‘Crying Lightning’ (2009)
The towering lead single off ‘Humbug’ frames a romantic relationship not as an inevitably, but a dare. This is where the album’s gloomy, callous aesthetic reaches dazzling heights, with the most microscopic of details (“With folded arms you occupied the bench like toothache”) translating to sustained melodrama.
29‘Old Yellow Bricks’ (2007)
Accentuated by a writhing bassline and garage rock swagger, this ‘Wizard Of Oz’-inspired tune captures the youthful naivety of leaving your hometown in search of somewhere, bigger, brighter, better. The evocative lyrics explode into a striking allegory on its final line: “I know I said, ’Who wants to sleep in a city that never wakes up?’/ But Dorothy was right, though.”
28‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ (2013)
All chunky beats, clockwork drum patterns and R&B-lite production, the third single from the game-changing ‘AM’ is one of the flirtiest-sounding things the band have done to date. This noted fan-favourite wittily summarises an intoxicated crime that many have accidentally committed in the after-hours: the roll-out of one too many drunken voicemails.
27‘Leave Before The Lights Come On’ (2006)
Despite its thorny subject matter – an instantly regrettable one night stand, no less – musically, ‘Leave Before The Lights Come On’ is a bolt of heart-stopping joy, full of buoyant, hopeful riffs. This standalone single even wraps up with a well-placed offer from our remorseful protagonist: “I’ll walk you up, what time’s the bus come?”
26‘Four Out Of Five’ (2018)
It’s easy to marvel at the expansiveness of ‘Four Out Of Five’: it’s sleek, infinitely quotable, unsubtle, a little ridiculous. Everything here sounds as if it suspended above Earth: its absurdist lounge-pop soundscape, its invitation to a taqueria on the moon. This is not just Arctic Monkeys’ space hotel; it’s their world. We’re simply visiting.
25‘Suck It And See’ (2011)
‘Suck It And See’ explores that feeling of being dumbstruck by the full force of falling for someone. “Your kiss, it could put creases in the rain”, a soft-eyed Turner tenderly coos. In just nine words, it perfectly articulates something most of us spend a lifetime trying to understand: the beautiful discomfort of this certain type of feeling, which can knock you for six.
24‘When The Sun Goes Down’ (2006)
“I said, ‘He’s a scumbag, don’t you know…’” spits Turner, and a millisecond later, the whole thing instantly starts thundering into life. On this indie dancefloor mainstay, beefy, distorted riffs, merciless drums and an all-out anthemic chorus bid to outdo each other. It all feels like a sudden rush of blood to the head, but one we’ll still gladly suffer over again.
23‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ (2005)
Multifaceted storytelling and an impeccably airtight rhythm section results in a tremendous payoff on the band’s first-ever recorded track. Underneath the circular bass loops, this is a key document in understanding Arctic Monkeys’ meteoric rise from the underground up – they were slick, smart and brushed off the scepticism with audacious bangers like this one.
22‘Love Is A Laserquest’ (2011)
‘Love Is A Laserquest’ is mournful. It’s subtle. It’s a gently bruised song that waltzes in circles with a dozen conflicting emotions, before reforming and starting again. It sounds like it could be playing out entirely in Turner’s head, though a serenity in his tone that suggests he’s likely to emerge just fine ≠ regardless of whether we believe him.
21‘One For The Road’ (2013)
A steady slow-burn of a song built on an Americana-tinged jam and guest vocals from quiff connoisseur and hard rock icon Josh Homme, the moody ‘One For The Road’ comes together via a smoky intensity that is an evocative slice of a noirish drama.
20‘One Point Perspective’ (2018)
The retro-gazing title promises something intensely cinematic, and that it delivers. ‘One Point Perspective’ is a rapture of swooning, big-screen excess, and when played live, Turner allows himself to get caught up in it by faithfully acting out the closing line “Bear wi’ me, man / I lost my train of thought”, as if the Academy is watching, every single time.
19‘Evil Twin’ (2011)
“Do you like rock and roll?” Turner would hoot by way of stately introduction to this mighty B-side, one of the many gems that adorned the band’s early 2010s setlists. His question quickly became redundant: ‘Evil Twin’ is the end of a tether compressed into a no-muss, no-fuss barnstormer where riffs roar and the drumming rollicks. Tha knows!
18‘Pretty Visitors’ (2009)
Fair play to those who can recite the raucous verses of ‘Pretty Visitors’ with precision. It’s an incredibly hard task to keep up with; this is Helders’ drumming at its most furious, Turner’s lyrics at their most knotty. Yet this everything-at-once, wiggy assault is heroically funny – “What came first, the chicken or the dickhead?”, Turner cries at one point.
17‘Mardy Bum’ (2006)
An ode to a rather crabby girlfriend, this accidental anthem is brief, playful, and full of gently libidinous digs (“Remember cuddles in the kitchen to get things off the ground?”), to the point where its persistence feels endearing. Though the songwriting may not feel as strong and intricate as that of the rest of the debut album, it’s sung with an impish smile that makes it impossible not to crack a grin of your own.
16‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ (2005)
This is one enormous song. First appearing on the now-sought-after ‘Five Minutes With Arctic Monkeys’ EP – which catapulted the band to underground indie notoriety in summer 2005 – the big, jagged riffs that erupt after the verses throw the song’s rowdy imagery into sharp relief. It all climaxes with a cathartic yell, a wild howl into the void.
‘Brianstorm’ is a fucking blast. Every adrenaline-filled riff, every lairy image and unsettling pause is unleashed at a pace reckless enough to floor you – a point driven home by the way this scrappy indie-rock belter rumbles and ends with a thunderous boom. It’s the type of tune that can leave you breathless while trying to relish it all in the moment.
Intensified by a haunting organ sample from Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, the crestfallen ‘505’ possesses a rich, filmic depth that sparks even brighter with every pulsing beat. And that muscular, aching refrain – “But I crumble completely when you cry” – is the crown jewel of any Arctic Monkeys show.
13‘The Ultracheese’ (2018)
Coloured by overlapping shades of pain and regret, this fragile piano ballad contains some of the band’s most difficult, inward-looking material yet. When this waltzing number culminates in a devastating plea: “I’ve done some things that I shouldn’t have done / But I haven’t stopped loving you once”, it offers an invitation to move through the grief as one.
12‘Secret Door’ (2009)
Alex Turner has never written a straightforward love song, a fact that ‘Secret Door’ builds upon. A glorious, ethereal incantation steeped in a romance so pure and luminous that it drifts along as if by magic, sharp musicianship heightens emotion with each perfectly timed crescendo, while he sings the poetic refrain as if he’s under a spell.
11‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ (2011)
In retrospect, ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ served as the climax of ‘Suck It And See’, as well as everything Arctic Monkeys had done up to that point. This wondrous, big-hearted tale of a blossoming love glimmers like the hazy LA sunset under which it was recorded, until the sprawling melody affixes itself to a moment. A new beginning; a full realisation.
10‘The View From The Afternoon’ (2006)
Operating with a devilish grin, ‘The View From The Afternoon’ flexes a cheeky sense of self-awareness from the off. “Anticipation has a habit to set you up…”, it so famously and pointedly begins. Which other band would have the balls to pierce vertiginous hype from critics and fans alike by opening their debut album with such a corker, before repeating it again – word-for-bloody-word – at the start of the second verse?
Is this the sexiest Arctic Monkeys song ever? Bolstered by a riff inspired by Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’, this electric hard-rock stomper flashes a knowing grin, rolls out a litany of cool come-ons, and has all the sudden jolts of alluring imagery necessary to set many a mind whirring. Turner’s lusty drawl lingers like a dangling cigarette, as he dissects that particular type of painful, life-consuming longing.“And her lips are like the galaxy’s edge”, he deadpans, knowing she’ll forever be out of reach.
Within each swirling, lovelorn guitar loop of ‘Cornerstone’ is a devastatingly specific, painful memory. “I’m beginning to think I’ve imagined you all along”, Turner laments over a newly absent partner halfway through, as heavy thoughts about love and loss flow by. The second single from ‘Humbug’ charts a sly indoor smoke, a case of déjà vu in the pub, a reflective taxi ride home, and embodies exactly what many of Turner’s stories are made of: seemingly mundane moments that alchemise into big, sensitive narratives.
7‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ (2007)
The sheer joy of ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ is nothing but infectious. It is so glorious and unsteady, so beautiful and silly, and more than a decade on has lost none of its size and sparkle. This fantastical fairytale journey into the woes of ageing ungracefully is brazen in its bite, wit and phallic references: “Was it a Mecca dauber or a betting pencil?” Yet the song possesses enough romance to make your bones tingle, and enough emotion to set your heart alight.
6‘Do Me A Favour’ (2007)
Housing the ultimate kiss-off to a lying cheat – “perhaps ‘Fuck off’ might be too kind” – this scything track depicts an indefinite feeling of regret, and pushes through a turbulent maelstrom of hurt and disgust with the breakneck speed of a Fast & Furious car chase. When, halfway through the song, Turner’s bitter diatribe against a former lover vaults into a heart-thumping crescendo (“Do me a favour and break my nose”), it feels like it could all explode at any moment, just like in the movies.
Originally surfacing in early 2012 as a part of Record Store Day UK, ‘R U Mine?’ kicked off a remarkable run of releases that paved the way for the invincible, record-breaking ‘AM’ in 2013, for which it was reworked and re-released as the mighty lead single. This exhilarating track made for one of the band’s greatest displays of their power yet, and they knew that, too: In the accompanying black-and-white video, as the first gargantuan riff lets rip, Helders and Turner snarl, wink and break into a round of boisterous air-drumming with abandon.
The bravado never fades. Hip hop-indebted verses are slung out in a deft, cocksure cadence, making this refreshing change of pace for the band seem tantalising and limitless. That rock’n’roll, eh?
4‘Star Treatment’ (2018)
No one was quite prepared for ‘Star Treatment’. “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes,” began the band’s masterful sixth album. “Now look at the mess you made me make.” A collective gasp was taken. How could one half-spoken lyric invoke guilt, youth, regret, and finality that intensely? At first, those words loom ominously. Few opening lines have ever sounded so uncompromisingly bleak, and even fewer so bracingly frank, so heavy with despair. But augmented by a twinkling piano lead, Turner’s stream-of-consciousness that follows is disarmingly beautiful to the point that the song’s opening shocker swiftly begins to fade out of focus, like a flickering old movie.
It’s a flawless, startling encapsulation of everything the group sought to achieve with their greatest reinvention yet.
3‘Do I Wanna Know?’ (2013)
‘Do I Wanna Know?’ was simply fated to be a smash. It boasts a blockbuster riff, an anthemic chorus, and the outsized confidence and precision borne from a band who were entering their second decade of indie-rock sovereignty, and damn right knew that they were at the peak of their powers.
The numbers don’t lie, either: to date, the R&B-dabbling song’s animated video has racked up over a billion hits on YouTube. Yet it also bears another honourable triumph – this was once the centrepiece of every indie-worshipping teen’s ‘aesthetics’ Tumblr page (circa 2014), and soon became an internet phenomena that developed into something even greater: a touchstone for a new, wildly committed generation of Monkeys fans.
2‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ (2005)
If there’s one moment that defines why Arctic Monkeys were such a confounding and captivating presence when they came roaring out the gate, it was when eight fateful words were uttered at the start of their first-ever live TV recording. “We are the Arctic Monkeys – don’t believe the hype”, quipped a cocksure Turner, seconds before abruptly launching into a rapid-fire performance of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, their indie-rock epic.
The track, with its blistering riffs and acerbic wit, is so perfectly formed, so impeccably sequenced, that even to this day you can only laugh at how absurdly good it is. It holds the power to change lives in just three golden minutes – and will continue to do so forever.
1‘A Certain Romance’ (2006)
Is there anything at all romantic about outgrowing your hometown? As your teenage years draw to a close, the overfamiliarity of your locale can feel increasingly claustrophobic, but a nagging undercurrent of pride is what draws you back, time and time again. What ‘A Certain Romance’ offers is a small victory. It’s emblematic of an entire suburban adolescence. With no real chorus and very few rhythmic changes, it manages to condense and illustrate all the bombast and tension of this universal experience into five life-affirming minutes.
No other Arctic Monkeys song feels more searing, more perfect, than this one. It’s the sound of believing in a band’s every word, carrying them with you wherever you go, and feeling so profoundly, disgustingly grateful for each new lyric, for each indescribable emotion. As it builds to an earth shaking climax, (“Well, you won’t get me to go / Not anywhere, not anywhere…”), Jamie Cook’s guitar roars and Matt Helder’s pummelling drums coalesce with Alex Turner’s double epiphany – there is no place like home, there is no band like ours.