Leaving their legacies: “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”


Raw vocals, upbeat instrumentals and carefree profanity highlight the spontaneous mood in Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” By producing the number one fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history on its first attempt, the Arctic Monkeys set an impressive precedent for later rock bands and proved that great rock music can be universally appreciated.

Starting with 22 seconds of hardcore guitar and drums, the first song “The View from the Afternoon” sets up the explosive, rough nature of the album. While singing about the angst that comes with romantic anticipation, Turner sets the mood for the rest of the album with a hype-worthy beginning. In addition, lead vocalist Alex Turner has a Sheffield accent that pairs with the rock genre surprisingly well. This refreshing combination of British accents and rock music introduces a new element that gives the album its own personal style.

With a dauntless punk rock attitude, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor” expresses the perpetual conflict between the fear of commitment to relationships and the desire for devoted attention. Instead of imitating the typical moody love song, the members of the band let their inner souls pour out with completely organic expression. Love songs usually incorporate a mellow and soothing tone to suit emotional lyrics, but Arctic Monkeys ditches this normality by using passionate emotion to drive the album’s hardcore theme.

Halfway into the album, “Riot Van” gives listeners a chance to take a break from the previous amplified madness with a slower song. The riot van, which is typically used to arrest individuals, alludes to the aftermath of Turner’s early 20’s party life. The lyrics tell the story of underage drinkers getting arrested and dealing with the self-realization that engulfs them afterwards. Managing to simultaneously convey contemplative sadness and emptiness, Turner’s softened, gloomy voice evokes an overwhelming sense of defeat and makes this melancholy song unlike any other within the album.

In the most dramatic single in the whole album, Arctic Monkeys transforms the mood in “Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But…” from a mild sense of frustration into a intense, passionate rant about the band’s haters. The first half of the song consists of Turner metaphorically insulting these “vampires” who are trying to suck out his ambition, while the second half of the song uses blaring, abrasive instrumentals to rile people up. For more than two minutes, listeners can hear the pure talent of Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Andy Nicholson as they parallel Turner’s aggression on their own drum sets and guitars. The harsh combination of all these elements, from the roaring instruments to the angry tone of Turner’s voice, revives a classic angsty garageband atmosphere.

“A Certain Romance” ends the album with a simple, melodious song about the dynamics of friendship. According to the lyrics, the certain platonic romance between friends allows for certain privileges that others cannot have. Gentle brushes on the cymbals and delicate guitar strumming conclude this hardcore rock album with a light-hearted story. After 41 minutes of listening to the band play their hearts out, people can settle down back into reality as the song fades out with a final guitar chord.

Overall, the debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” introduces Arctic Monkeys’ young and passionate energy. Jamming out to this album comes naturally, and taking the time to analyze the deeply symbolic lyrics is definitely an intriguing experience as well. Every individual track showcases a different facet of emotion—nostalgia, love or anger—that makes it unique, but all 13 songs in the album still fit perfectly together like puzzle pieces. You don’t have to be a die-hard rock music fan to understand why “New Musical Express” lists this album as the fifth greatest British album ever produced. While there are a few minor details throughout the album that could be improved on, they can simply be attributed to personal preference.

For anyone looking to listen to iconic and impactful music, check out “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.” This album is a rare find in the music industry, and each track is appealing in its own way. Like its name implies, this piece of work does not imitate the normal conventions of typical rock music — whatever people think this album is, Arctic Monkeys makes sure that’s what it’s not.

By Kevin Arifin, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of iTunes

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