Tuesday, May 22

Worst Nightmare Isn't Brits' Best Stuff - By Joe Gilson

Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Album: Favourite Worst Nightmare

Let me say one thing straight off: I like the Arctic Monkeys. I really do. I was one of those people pushing them on my friends when they came onto the American scene. You see, I was in Ireland when they blew up so I got to witness the British explosion firsthand. It is for these reasons that I feel a little bad about what I am going to do.

Jack Johnson was new for me when I first heard him. I had never heard anything quite like what he was doing in the context of a major album release. For that reason, every song off of his debut album is memorable for me. Then his second album came out and, frankly, it was more of the same. Ask me how any song off the first album goes and I’ll know it instantly. Second album? Not so much. Because essentially they are the same album with only a few differences. For this reason, if you ask someone what their favorite Jack Johnson album is, it is going to be the one they heard first. Unfortunately, the Arctic Monkeys have fallen into this trap for me.

The Monkeys’ 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not was an immediately memorable listen. It was visceral, grating and laid-back, accessible and exclusive at the same time. Listening to that album made you feel “in” on some kind of idea, but an idea that you knew people would be getting behind in the near future. Which makes sense; Favourite Worst Nightmare is pretty much everyone getting in on the idea, after its become slightly worn down and a bit more universal.

I know why Whatever never took off in America. It was simply TOO British. I got it because of the time I spent immersed in the culture. Nightmare, on the other hand, is far more general in it’s language. Songs from Whatever like “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured” and “A Certain Romance” which specifically detailed British pub culture have been forgone for songs and lyrics which detail handling fame and being looked at as an icon, something these 21-year-old kids from Sheffield cleary have trouble dealing with. The problem is, a lot of people in the position of the Monkeys have dealt with fame. Not many have been so good at detailing the like of a 21 y.o. in Sheffield.

Does this mean that Favourite Worst Nightmare has no redeeming value? Absolutely not. “Teddy Picker” ranks up there among the best on Whatever and the song “Flourescent Adolescent” is a very catchy, very memorable tune. At the same time, there is a lack of consistency. Their debut was reliable from track to track for a few good hooks in each song, from “View From The Afternoon” to “A Certain Romance.” Even the singles were excellent. Which brings us to Favourite Worst Nightmare in a nutshell. I was waiting with baited breath to hear the new single, “Brianstorm.” I played it on my computer, then had to play it again, and again, and again. Not because I liked it so much. Because each time it came on, it finished without me ever really getting sucked into it. I realized that there was nothing grabbing, nothing instinctive that pulled at my guts and made me remember it. That is the real problem.

Is it a bad album? Definitely not. Is it as good as Whatever? Definitely not. Is it fair to compare the two? Maybe. But lead singer Alex Turner says it himself on the first album: “Anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment.”

Plus, when you have a band so new and so different, who else can you compare them to?

Worth it to buy: Eh, probably. Try to find it online though.
Stars: 6.5

Thanks to Joe Gilson for the review, and for implementing a new rating system here at LOTD (6.5 stars? Yowza!). Updates continue tomorrow.

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