From the opening track of "Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not", indie group Arctic Monkeys 2006 debut album, one is left dizzy and gasping for breath due to the nonstop barrage of interwoven guitar melodies, enchanting grooves from their spontaneous rhythm section and their impassioned, half-shouted lyrics delivered via Yorkshire accents as thick as maple syrup. The momentum here is never lost, even during the bands only down-tempo song, "Riot Van", a youthful and taunting disregard for the law and those "silly boys in blue". Here are a group that certainly aren't afraid to "take it on the chin".
The English lads never relinquish their firm grasp of mystery. Even as lead singer, Alex Turner, dismisses blood-thirsty bouncers in "From the Ritz to the Rubble", his youthful age is covered like a blanket by the presence of hindsight and acceptance. Never here do the boys show their years, though all are under the age of twenty. The description of people and places and the recollection of the urgency of life spent on the dance floor draw a picture of a much older and traveled troubadour.
From the condemnation of the whores and scummy men of "When the Sun Goes Down" to the reluctant acceptance of promiscuity in "Still Take You Home" the gamut is crossed and then crossed back again. An urban landscape of bad people and bad decisions is painted with unflinching realism amongst a backdrop of 1980's pop culture references and working class poetics. From the pursuit of "lairy girls" with "bunny ears and devil horns" in the opening song to the closing number's concern over the faults of friends that are not met with scorn, but are merely dealt with quietly, we are narrated through what appears to be a long and arduous weekend. Perhaps these faults are the same social circumstances Turner riles about throughout the album. Perhaps his acceptance of others shortcomings extends to the cast of characters that roam like tribes through the hard streets of his memories. But maybe that task is reserved for someone not nearly as resolute as our narrator pretends to be.