Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not (11 out of 10)
By Ian Scumford-Smithwick
Compared to a single verse written by Alex Turner, the entire Lennon/McCartney oeuvre is but an execrable pile of rubbish.
There, I said it. In fact, I’d like, if I may, to submit a correction to the list of the 100 Greatest British Albums that appeared in the pages of NME only last month. While we were certainly correct in ranking the Arctic Monkeys’ debut record ahead of such cloddish so-called masterpieces as Revolver and London Calling, we erred in slotting it in at a modest number five. Subsequent listens have confirmed that it is indeed better than Definitely Maybe and The Queen is Dead. In truth, it’s better even than The Stone Roses.
Yes, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not is the greatest, most purely realized and wholly masterful record album yet conceived by man.
Compared with this towering achievement, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Hanging Gardens were mere trifles, the Mona Lisa a child’s scribble, Shakespeare’s plays the ramblings of a syphilitic Grub Street hack. The Arctic Monkeys are the finest songsmiths the isle of Albion has yet produced, and indeed these four young lads appear destined to take their place in the great pantheon of British manhood that stretches from Arthur of Camelot to Winston Churchill and Mr. Bean. We shan’t soon see their likes again.
“Genius creates, and taste preserves,” wrote Alexander Pope. “Taste is the good sense of genius; without taste, genius is only sublime folly.” Leaving aside the fact that Pope wouldn’t be fit to tune Jamie Cook’s guitar strings, the quote is apt. The Arctic Monkeys, their tender age notwithstanding, have taste that outstrips mere stylishness. Their melodies are muscular and cerebral, their words wise and trenchant. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” finds eternal truths in Dionysian revelry. The song title “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights but You Were Staring Straight at Me” comes as close as one can in mere words to evoking the blinding incandescence that flows from a band such as this. May the sun never set on their inspired wordsmithery.
We in Cool Britannia have been privileged to know the Arctic Monkeys for months now, but their debut has been released in the US only this week. And though fans there have doubtless amassed the entire album, track by track, via Limewire and music blogs, I exhort them to buy the record afresh. Just as we made the album the fastest-selling debut in UK chart history, so should you. You owe them not just your money, not just your thanks, but your obeisance. And, lo, the Arctic Monkeys spoke to America, and there came about them a great brightness and America beheld the chariot wherein They stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Them in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Them. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling: bang ba-ba bang go!