The best new band in Britain thrill Birmingham with the exact sound of right now
“You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham!/Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook!” Yeah, Arctic Monkeys, right. Because you’re no scene-jumping chancers at all, are you? You’ve never heard a Libertines record and thought, “We could just copy that, only Northern and a bit Zutons,” hmmm? You’ve not let your tiny smidgeon of success go to your heads and begun getting shirty with the press within minutes of sniffing the Top 40, eh? And you’d never dream of crowbarring in some ska bits the minute you spot the first pork pie hat on the cover of NME, now would you? Frankly, we should be horse-whipping your hypocritical indie arses back into the Sheffield undergrowth and then waiting for you to crawl back out in three months time playing reformed Britpop songs, wearing two ties and calling yourselves the Tizer Thiefs. If you weren’t so fucking brilliant.
Yes, for all their magpie urch-pop flappings and despite the fact that the hey-scenesters sneer of ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ is a bit like Ricky Wilson recording ‘Who Ate All The Pies?’, Arctic Monkeys really are going to save British rock. If we go by Einstein’s Law Of Decentbandity – Revisionism = good (Bloc Party, Kaisers, The Rakes, Hard-Fi) and Revivalism = worthy of kneecapping (Dead 60s, GLC, The Darkness, Interpol) – then Arctic Monkeys are an impeccable modern concoction; so much more than just a Libertines from the wrong end of the M1. ‘(I Bet That You) Look Good On The Dancefloor’ is like a punk Benny Hill outro, the rhythm section sounding like they’re chasing each other around the stage behind a bevvy of scantily-clad Abi Zutons while urch twiglet Alex Turner drawls sardonically about “dirty dancefloors” and “dreams of naughtiness”. ‘You Probably Couldn’t See’ is the sound of a bunch of Yorkshire happy slappers doing skids around a haunted dancehall. There’s hints of The Bluetones’ ‘Slight Return’ – if it had ever gotten pissed at an ’80s disco with The La’s – in ‘Mardy Bum’, a ferocious slab of Wedding Present guitar epiphany in ‘A Certain Romance’ and just the right dosage of Specials skank sprinkled liberally throughout to keep Ver Monkeys scintillatingly contemporary without compromising their north-of-Watford aloofness. ‘Vampires‘ is their most ska song, but hey, it‘s ska by murderers. They’ve the vivacity of peak-era Jam, the ramshackle urban charm of a sober Babyshambles and the cockiness of Satan himself. They are, arguably, the perfect 2005 British band.
Where they’ll find most kinship with The Libs, in fact, is in the levels of adulation. This long sold-out gig is abound with shirt-flinging, yob-chanting Midlands mentalists wailing every single word to as-yet-unrecorded songs. The first lyric website this reviewer hit to check the opening quote from ‘Fake Tales…’ had been read a total of 2,774 times ( ‘Blue Orchid’, for comparison’s sake, managed 741, ‘Speed Of Sound’ peaked at 703). Because, like Pete Doherty unravels the poetic depravities of the Whitechapel wastrel, Alex Turner – in his Pete Gone Pitman whine – delves into the gritty minutiae of Sheffield sub-life with a similarly voyeuristic zeal. It’s all there in ‘When The Sun Goes Down’, a catalogue of Northern city street life that resembles ‘Time For Heroes’ drenched in mushy peas – the prostitutes, destitutes and scumbags with driving bans (“Amongst other offences”) roam the miniskirt-in-December city centre boozescape, with Alex cast as our bored barman narrator, aghast yet ambivalent to the sad seductions being played out before him. “And what a scummy man/Give him half a chance I bet he’ll rob you if he can” – part Pete Doherty poetics, part actually being out for the night with Doherty. Except Arctic Monkeys will soon be transcending such bottom-rung polemic – they’ve the sass, suss and swagger to carve us a new route through modern pop, the urch baton in hand and a snivelling anti-scene sneer in their lip. Blow up the bandwagon, tear up the handbook…