Worth the hype?Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am,
That's What I'm Not
(Domino Recording Co.)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 18, 2006
Review by Tony BonyataOkay, you've probably already tuned into CNN or picked up [insert your favorite magazine / newspaper here] and heard that the U.K.-based indie-rock band Arctic Monkeys are the fasting selling new act in the history of U.K. recorded music . Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, totaled sales in excess of 360,000 in just its first week alone. The question on everyone's mind (probably none more so than the Monkeys themselves), however, is 'Why?'
Word on the street indicates the unknown Sheffield quartet of friends barely out of high school went from relative obscurity to the biggest selling debut act in the matter of months with the help of the Internet. But the fact is, there are thousands of bands around the word utilizing the power of online marketing and virtual buzz in much the same manner. What appears to have been one of the catalysts of their meteoric rise to the top of the charts is their own, quite possibly, dumb-luck method of building their fan base without even a record label deal. The band toured the U.K. extensively where they handed out home-burned demo CDs for free which their fans, in turn, posted heavily online (apparently, also delivering jaw-dropping performances to exuberant crowds didn't seem to hurt their plight any either).
When the buzz starting hitting a fever-pitch the band was courted by Domino Records (also home to Franz Ferdinand, Four Tet and The Kills) who released the band's first single - the infectious "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" which immediately shot to the number one position on the British charts. When their full-length album also landed on the top of the charts just a few weeks ago, suddenly the world was infatuated with their seemingly overnight, rags-to-riches success story.
So there's the hype, but is their album worth all the fuss? Probably not, considering the glut of talent out there cut from a similar cloth - only better. But considering the saccharine-pap that normally chokes the top of the charts, it is refreshing to hear a young, brash rock band with talent get their due.
While far from brilliant, their full-length debut is, nonetheless, an unhinged carnival ride of snappy Brit-pop, angular post-punk and testosterone-driven, spastic energy. If it wasn't for the quartet's shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later blitzkrieg through songs such as "You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me," "From The Ritz To The Rubble" and "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor," you might realize that the songs are a bit lean in the song craft department. But when a band is able to conjure up the verve and venom of acts such as Gang Of Four, The Libertines, Blur and The Strokes without directly aping any of them, how can you fault them?
While Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was released last month in the U.K., it still has to prove itself to the U.S. market when it hits stores on Tuesday, February 21st. I expect a similar response that T. Rex had on the U.S. during the height of their popularity in the U.K. in the early '70s, where despite being the biggest thing since The Beatles across the pond, here they were viewed as little more than a glam-rock one-hit wonder. But then again, the hype-machine behind the band is making such a racket at the moment, they may just make an impressive splash here as well. Monkey see, monkey do.
Arctic Monkeys will be performing on March 18 at Metro in Chicago, IL.
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