I wanted to wait to listen to this record so as not to judge it too quickly. Admittedly, it took more than a few listens to sink in. At first I thought it suffered from too much sameness, but today is the day it finally clicked. And I think it might even be better than the bazillion-selling Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Alex Turner’s sardonic wordplay is the centerpiece again, just a notch above the band’s wiry kineticism. His inflection may sound too English for the band ever to break in America on a level that could counterbalance its success at home, simply because he doesn’t hide his accent like so many other British bands desperate for world domination. But his turns of phrase are nothing short of brilliant. His references are wise beyond his early twenty-something years.
This music is obviously borne of The Jam, The Smiths, and The Libertines, but Turner’s constant bon mots and his distinct vocals have precluded the band ever from sounding like underage copycats. There’s just far too much going on in every song to cite one band as a dominating influence. Plus, the music is just too damned good.
While the first single “Brainstorm” is actually one of the weaker tracks, it serves as more of a statement than just another catchy tune in the arsenal. Its lack of tune might be the point, actually. I don’t think Turner is taking the piss, exactly, trying to see if he can top the charts with an un-song, but he’s certainly aware of its awkward structure.
“Teddy Picker” borders on condescension, but the subtle shout out to Duran Duran’s “Save A Prayer” can’t help but force a knowing smile. The blend of post-punk, pop, and old school rock n’ roll is merely a foundation upon which Turner runs amok with his dizzying stories. You couldn’t possibly listen to this record once and get it. Turner’s lyrics are too dense and cerebral to absorb casually. Good thing he makes them catchy as hell, as on “The Bad Thing”- one of the best songs the band has ever recorded.
When the band’s inherent jittery nervousness melds with a dance-rock riff, the result is astoundingly infectious. “Old Yellow Bricks” is impossible not to like. The guitar interplay forms a wiry hook that should make Franz Ferdinand weak in the knees. And even when things slow down, Turner sounds just as comfortable and confident. The build-up on “505” will make the hair on your neck stand on end.
Favourite Worst Nightmare isn’t a case of cashing in or cynical business-minded timing. The quickness of the follow-up was to curb expectations. But when you hold the title for the fastest-selling album in British history, no tactic is going to stymie the anticipation, which is all the more reason this album should be celebrated. Not only have the Arctic Monkeys given the finger to the sophomore slump, but they’ve guaranteed their longevity, so long as they don’t cave under the pressure of success.