AOTY 2023
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Jul 28, 2020

Writers block is a bitch, huh?

I'll try to describe my 'problem' with writers block i'm facing without sounding too much of a pretentious man crying for help for the third time this week. Boo ho me, I know. And look, I know these emotional reviews (not to write them off completely, if you want to open up in your writing then go for it if your comfortable) can sometimes read as people trying to reach for something to grasp on that's greater then the art to find solutions to moments in life that seem confusing, which many cynics could boil down to 'My dog died, Origin Of Symmetry a 10, dog back!'. So, to beat the nihilism crowd to the punch, I do not want to dwell or set too much of a dower scene, so i'll explain writers block very flippantly.

Recently, in my Nick Drake review, I said I hit a writers block. A large one, in fact. Now, I thought I was past the point of 'Oh, it's just a moment in time I've over' stage and onto the writing phase of writers block, and not to undermine that review...but that's not exactly what happened. It got worse. A lot worse, actually, to the point that I thought for a good week I thought I forgot how to write a review. I'm not kidding, that shit just grew, with self emposed deadlines being more and more loose in my head, my need to write lessening with each paragraph I tried to conjure, and my anxiety for writing growing ever more. It also wasn't helping that every review I wrote was for albums that were 6 out of 10s at best or 4 out of 10s at worst. It's not a huge issue in the grand scheme if we are all being honest, and some of this may be down to a self inflated issue of self importance that my writing has to be THE FUCKING BEST OR NOTHING in order to be valid to an audience. But, it was a problem I felt I can handle on my own, hence why I didn't talk to anyone about this or was more open about this, even though it was still an issue. Hell, this review was WRITTEN out of these feelings, with me literally writing this after missing 3 deadlines since Monday, technically 4!

Again, ain't writers block is a bitch?

OK, enough self loathing, let's get into why that's important in the first place. I've been recently (as a result of these things) been looking backwards and what I listened to in my past before I went and looked at new music. More specifically, i've moved towards looking at albums that I loved when I was a kid. Not for any particular reason, honestly it's probably a self indulgent exercise in nostalgia then anything. And one of those bands I keep returning to is Arctic Monkeys, as they were single-handedly the act that made me want to start seeking out music I loved (other acts like Muse, Mid 2000s hardcore bands and musicals I watched as a kid have also been in rotation).

Enter this album.

Good god this album. With it being Arctic Monkeys 'sequel' record to 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not', there was a lot of pressure on the band to improve and adapt their sound to not only become a bigger and better band, but also the band wanted to go in a more heavy and dominating sound so that they could rivel other bands who were going big or going home. Their answer to these requests came with 'Favorite Worst Nightmare', a blistering 37 minute record that gets in, gets mean, and gets out, leaving a path of beautiful chaos in it's path.

It starts with the chaotic and devastating opener 'Brainstorm', setting the scene with the hard hitting guitars, blisteringly bouncy bass work, out of control drums and the same hip-hop influenced vocal lines fans were used at this point in the bands career. Lyrically, its the kick in the pants snarkyness of the 'Who The Fuck are the Arctic Monkeys' EP with a newfound 'fuck you' energy that literally lights a fire under the listers ass in the best way possible. This snarky heavy attitude is basically the tone that this album displays in the best way possible, as songs like the bouncy retro-styled middle finger of the sharply written 'Teddy Picker', the snarling and unhinged distorted dastardly demolition of 'D Is For Dangerous', and the two for one killing show of the two parter 'This House Is a Circus' and 'If You Were There, Beware', showing that the band was fucking pissed off and ready to kill.

Each instrumental brings something new to the table. The fury of 'Brainstorm'. The retro style of 'Teddy Picker'. The punchy to the face of 'D is for Dangerous'. The almost tripping over quality seen in the extremely underrated 'Balaclava' (which shows some of Alex Turners fastest vocal lines, reminding me weirdly enough of Flight of the Conchords). The doo-wop-esq 'The Bad Thing'. And the arena rock stylings of 'Old Yellow Bricks', look, I could list every track and say what exactly it brings. But it just keeps going, and gets more interesting by the second. These tracks listed have been in my playlists for years, and yet they haven't lost a single second of fun in its repetition.

And if you think this show is nothing but punch, but no emotional bite, then I suggest you don't write off this show off right away, as the more somber and thoughtful tracks like the poppy and wholesome sounding 'Fluorescent Adolescent', a song where you can almost see the arms waving with a lighter in a pub in the chorus (co-written with Totalizer's Johanna Bennett on a holiday), the absolutely aching 'Only Ones Who Know', which is definitely the slowest and most heart-wrenching track on the whole album, sounding like the saddest western tune never graced on the silver screen, and 'Do Me A Favour'.

God...'Do Me A Favour'.

This album was the first album that I found what I call the 'Peak Music' moment. 'Do It's the moment in music where everything around you transfers into another plane of existence and you become one with the music you listen to. Think Swans entire discography, and you get the jist. Hell, I made a whole list of music like this that you should definitely check out if your interested:

Plug aside, the track 'Do Me A Favour' forever changed the way I looked at what music could accomplish. The slow, aching progression of this track, starting with those tribal drums and moving to the groovy bassline, with this hip swaying swagger to the whole song while Alex Turner builds a depressing picture of someone crying in a car, driving away. We don't know why, but they are driving. All of a sudden, the song becomes much more tense, Alex saying things like 'Do me a favour and break my nose'. He's in the wrong, and he knows it. We then get the answers to the first verses, in the form of earnest poetry:

'She walked away while her shoes were untied
And the eyes were all red, you could see that we'd cried
And I watched and I waited 'til she was inside
Forcing a smile and waving goodbye'.

After that, an explosion of noise, fury, anger and emotion. It sent me to the heavens the first time I heard it. It's a punch unlike any other, and Alex is wailing over this, pleading for his lover if they need help, which they respond: Fuck off. He's lost them. And then the song swiftly...ends. This song helped me get back into writing things. I mean, it's right to the point but so powerful. And by god, imagine the feeling of writing that line! Imagine the satisfaction!

Most people see '505' as a similar spiritual experience, and for good reason. That track also makes me accend in ways that rival 'Do Me A Favor', but good god do these two tracks, combined with the slowness of 'Only Ones Who Know' create music that makes me smile ear to ear literally every single time I listen to it. And that's just three tracks in a twelve track album, and while some songs don't have the emotional bite to them as others, by god they are some of the most ferocious bangers this side of 'Hell Yes' street. It's an album that maybe have been the most formative record i've ever heard. Literally, not another record has given me goosebumps like this one has. There are so many moments on his album I adore. The distortion hit on 'If You Were There, Beware'. The opening synths on '505'. The build up on 'Balaclava'. Everything is on POINT here.

I simply found this record influential and inspiring on so many points that I just can't comprehend to people (even though I just did). It's all bite. All killer. No filler, and so much god damn FUN! Is it a perfect 10/10 record? No, not really. I wish that there was just one more slow jam to really drive '505' home, and the quirky goofiness of titles like 'Teddy Picker', 'Brainstorm' and 'Fluorescent Adolescent' I can see being a little much for people. But goddamn does it come so very very close. This might have been the easiest review to write in weeks for me. Seriously.

So, to flip the 'this album cured my depression, killed my anxiety, paid my student debt, fed my cat and married me in the court of law!' speal just a bit, I must say that I still am not over this fucking writers block. Again, not a call for sympathy, but more so a reflection of a time in my life where the words 'Write a Review' struck fear into my heart. And it's hard to conquer those little nitpicks. The moments where we think we can't do better. The moments we thing that we can just give up. The times we feel like 'Well...I think I've covered all the bases'. And it's hard, damn it. But, if I can give one final word on the subject: it's that albums and pieces of art I genuinely love make the moments in between the writers blocks so much better.

So, I greet you with a goodbye. I'm just about to go and write something else, not to spoil a surprise, taking my hands off of your eyes too soon. I'm going back to write...oh five.

Is that dumb? Whatever. Enjoy life!

Favorite Jams: Do Me a Favour, 505, If You Were There, Beware

Lest Favorite: N/A

Original Review (Written Aug 10, 2018):

It's sleazy, greasy, not-so-easy rock and roll that has a suburb sense of energy, momentum and engagement, with the wit of a great stand-up special and the cleverness of a Harvard student. A all around great pop-punk album. (I FUCKING HATE THIS REVIEW WHAT AM I SAYING)

Favorite Jams: Brianstorm, The Bad Thing, 505

Lest Favorite: Only Ones Who Know

Babe, if you shit talk your own writing again I'm gonna fly to New Zealand and punch you in the arm.
@CLJesse let me be sad on main
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