DISCLAIMER: This review is rated F for fanboying
Last Sunday was the 10 year anniversary of the release of the much loved Arctic Monkeys album “Whatever You Say I Am, That is What I’m Not”. Originally the plan was to write a review for that album to celebrate its ten years of release. But instead, here is a review of the underrated masterpiece which was its follow up: “Favourite Worst Nightmare”. This album is very special to me, it’s the fourth album I ever brought and is the only one of the first four albums I brought that it’s still socially acceptable to listen to. To add, this is my favourite Arctic Monkeys album and one of my favourite albums ever.
What I love this album, and will stress over this track by track review, is that the band still maintain the energy level, earworm guitar riffs and the Yorkshire whit of their debut album; but in this offering Alex Turner’s lyrics had arguably matured and became stronger; the sound is slightly darker than the original without losing its accessible edge; and it, like the first album, does not have a weak point. Let’s go onto the track-by-track lowdown.
This opener is a relentless two minutes of guitar thrashing, big drums and witty lyrics. It’s probably the closest Arctic Monkeys would ever get to a heavy metal song. But being early Arctic Monkeys it has an infectious rift which has been chanted by crowds at their concerts ever since. Written about a man the band met on tour in Tokyo who had so much charisma it left the members “in awe” of, Turner barks over the guitar riffs, baselines and furious drumming to describe the mannerisms ‘Brian’ and the effects he has on everyone. Overall a brilliant opening 2:50 of the album about A Don Draper-like figure.
This song really carries from where Brianstorm left off, with frantic pace, an infectious guitar riff and Alex Turner’s Yorkshire accent barking over it all. In under 3 minutes Turner berates the talent contest culture which was/is everywhere in Britain, berating the wannabe pop stars who sign up for the contests (“shouldn’t be surprised when bent over, they told yer, but you were gagging for it”). And of course the song also has the put down at the end which sums up this whole song as a chantable middle finger to X-factor culture.
-D is for Dangerous-
One of the songs on this album which shares characteristics from songs on the previous album. D is for Dangerous is another earworm, and could be interpreted in numerous way. My personal understanding is that its talking about chasing the rush from a vice, which could be gambling, drugs, sex, drink, football manager? anything. But when the song is immensely fun and only 2:16 long it doesn’t really matter what it’s about.
Balaclava has a lot in common in subject matter with “Dancing Shoes”, and could even be seen as a sequel to it, but sounds so radically different that Balaclava could be about anything it would still be a banger. “The confidence is the Balaclava” is such a brilliant and simple song line it’s a miracle it had not been used it before. This song more than any is fluid and changing all the way through. from the quick baseline at the start, to the frantic guitars, to the ominous tone of the bridge to the slightly funky outro. This ends a breathless first four songs of the album.
One of the best Arctic Monkey’s songs, the band manage to blend a downbeat but nonetheless catchy guitar line into one of the biggest sing-along’s about a woman going through a midlife crisis unsatisfied seeing that in particular in terms of her sex life, her best days are numbered. In the same light of “When The Sun Comes Down” Arctic Monkeys turn a quite saddening topic into a brilliant pop song.
-Only Ones Who Know-
The slowest song on the album, comparable to “Riot Van” on its predecessor. This comparison brings about the reason I think this album is slightly better than “Whatever You Say I Am”, as lyrically this song is vastly superior and strikes out sincerity from Turner only really found in “A Certain Romance” from the previous album. The song at its core is about three people; A girl who has settled for a guy over the idea that she would never achieve true love, believing the initial fierce excitement is enough; the aforementioned Guy who is desperate to capture her heart; and Turner’s prospective, which is basically pointing out that they would all probably be better off on their own to pursue the ideas they had given up on. Personally I believe this song is as hideously underrated as the album itself.
-Do Me A Favour-
Almost a direct sequel to “Only Ones Who Knows”, Do Me A Favour is a tour de force and the centerpiece of the album. At its heart a breakup song, Do Me A Favour still sounds eight and half years after release utterly thrilling building from the-by this album standards slow start to the crescendo of guitars and emotion by the climax of the song. other than “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, I struggle to think of many songs of the subject matter better than this.
-This House is a Circus-
After the last three heavy on song writing and sensibility, the album gives everyone a break and goes into a nonsensical blast. This House Is a Circus is not about anything in particular (other than drugs probably) but what its effective as is simply being yet another earworm, staying in form with the rest of the album, it sounds slightly dark but a hell of a lot of fun.
-If You Were There, Beware-
This song picks up from where of This House is a Circus left off. This is probably my least favourite song on the album, but calling this the worst song on an album is like labelling one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet as his “weak foot”. With relentless guitars and drumming this is still a very strong song, and sounds definitively like it belongs with the rest of the album.
-The Bad Thing-
While many songs on this album share the subject matter of its predecessor, this is the only song which sounds like it should be on it. The Bad Thing is about an all too real sounding incidence of drunken cheating. In fact, this song, like many on the previous album, almost paints the picture of what’s happening that you could almost imagine watching the events of the song unfold. However, it still feels at home on Favourite Worst Nightmare and keeps up the unbelievably high level the album produces.
-Old Yellow Bricks-
The only comment which really needs to be made about this song is the quality of every guitar riff in the song. Every bit of the song is technically so simple to play but together with Alex Turner’s paranoid, Wizard of Oz linked vocals sounds absolutely thrilling.
This album closes with possibly the best song the Arctic Monkey’s have written to date. Allegedly named after the hotel room number Alex Turner met his girlfriend at the time in after months apart, 505 is a brilliantly touching, life affirming anthem which is quite simply special. Each detail of this song sounds and feels glorious, and highlights one of the key things which makes the band so popular, the fact that every person listening can relate to what Turner is singing about.
As already stated before, this is one of my favourite albums ever, this is an extremely biased review caused by how much I’ve listened to the album and how much I adore it. From start to finish it feels that every second of the album is vital, yet doesn’t feel like it’s not long enough. It is tragedy that this album sometimes feels forgotten between the impact “Whatever I Say I Am, That What I’m Not” had when it first came out and the successful reinvention of “AM”. Deep down, for me, and maybe a lot of other fans, probably know song-to-song, this is the best of the lot.
Just call me NME.