AOTY 2023
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Aug 29, 2020
I got paid three quid to write this so I’m doing it.

Ok in actuality I was going to review this eventually I just never got around to it, what better time to do it after the person who wants me to review gives me £3, thanks Hurvi. So Favourite Worst Nightmare, what is usually considered to be AM’s best record, and I can definitely see why. AM aren’t a new band to me, far from it. I’ve been listening to them on and off for years now, ever since I can remember. I grew up with that sort of music along with The Killers and Blur, my mum loved it and so did I. I remember liking their older material a lot more than their newer, that being their first two albums mainly. My mum did too. Today I’m finally going to sit down and talk about what makes this album AM’s best, and why I return to it more than I would probably admit.

Most of you reading this are going to know what this album is, or will at least have heard of AM prior. They’re a garage rock, indie rock band from Sheffield in the UK and they’re incredibly popular here, it’s quite obvious to see why. Considering they blew up in the mid-2000s, which was when music like Mr Brightside, Chelsea Dagger and Seven Nation Army was huge, it would only make sense for a band following these post-punk, indie rock trends to blow up like they did. They blew onto the scene with their debut record Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, then returned only a year later with their follow up record Favourite Worst Nightmare. I’m sure most of you have heard Fluorescent Adolescent by now.

So is it any good, the album I mean? Well, the short answer is yes, very, but this is a review from me, so we’re not going to just settle for that now are we? The album opens with Brianstorm, a relatively short but extremely punchy opener. A song that quite literally explodes onto the scene, blowing you backwards with those drums and guitars, a fiery combination. It sets the scene by setting it on fire, paving the way for the rest of the tracklisting to go as hard as this does. It sets a high bar for the rest of the album, but this isn’t even the best track, far from it. Lyrically the song feels very tongue and cheek towards this “Brian” who could either be a metaphor for something or a real person Alex Turner knew, it’s uncertain and I don’t think even Turner knows who Brian was. It seems to be taking jabs at him for being so fortunate in his life, possibly being a metaphor for dirty rich people? People who have wealth but choose not to show it in appearance or personality, and instead choose to become fat, disgusting pigs who use their wealth to get whatever they want. That might be reaching a little but, it would make sense, especially given the themes portrayed during the rest of the album. Let’s talk about that actually.

So the album itself does deal with a couple of themes, but the most prominent I can see is the life of the common person in the UK, using a lot of referential writing to appeal to that audience, references that I don’t think a lot of people overseas would get. The writing is very tongue and cheek, and very, very British. It uses its metaphors and tongue twisters to portray things like love, sex, drugs and depression. For an album that sounds this bombastic it’s actually pretty depressing. Songs like Balaclava and the acclaimed Fluorescent Adolescent are songs discussing the mundanity of sex and how a lot of people use it to feel something, anything at all. How people of a lower class background and get grouped into things like that too, drugs, sex, all of that messy stuff, stuff most people don’t want to be associated with. It sticks with you.

You can see that with the Arctic Monkeys now, if you look at them today they do seem to be quite far from where they began, a lot more acclaimed and definitely a lot more wealthy, it’s shown in their newer music too. Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino is a lounge jazz album sounding nothing like this or their debut records. They’ve left this world behind, the world that their two first albums were set in, the poorer parts of the UK, where drugs are rampant and sex is casual. I think you can look at that in multiple ways. This album doesn’t paint all of this as necessarily bad; it paints it as it is. It paints it realistically as I’m sure most of the band grew up around these kinds of things, and still would see them at that time. All of these songs are reflections of their lives at the time, so you can look at their newer music as further reflections of their lives, it’s just them getting older, but I feel like there’s a disconnect there. The reason these songs are probably as popular as they are, are the lyrics, and how they sound. The songs are like that because of the atmosphere the band were around at the time, your surroundings do affect the music you make. If you’re in a posh, stuck up place, your music is probably going to be reminiscent of that, the people you’re around and the atmosphere of the neighbourhood. You’re not going to be exposed to things like drugs, sex, all the things that, most poorer places are rampant with. People relate to these songs because most of their fans are, once again, British, and a lot of places in Britain have a lot of problems with drugs, with sex, with rape, with all of this. This album is very British, and grounded in that British culture, especially Sheffield’s. While it definitely does not paint a pretty picture of the place, why should it? Say it how it is, because we live in it.

I feel some of the best examples musically of this are on the songs This House is a Circus and Do The Bad Thing. Both these songs discuss things like drugs and sex and cheating. Getting high on whatever the fuck the party goers just gave you and making stupid decisions. Do The Bad Thing opens with the lines:
“Do the bad thing
Take off your wedding ring
But it won't make it that much easier
It might make it worse”
It’s blunt and to the point, like a lot of AM lyrics were at this time, another reason why they were probably so well received. AM were always blunt and upfront about their songs. While they did incorporate metaphors and things like that into their writing, nothing was ever sugar-coated, it was all real and all blunt, as it should be when discussing things like this.
This House is a Circus deals with the more “druggy” side of the scene, opening with the (quite amazing) lines:
“This house is a circus, berserk as fuck
We tend to see that as a perk, though
Look what it's done to your friends
Their memories are pretend
And the last thing that they want is for the feeling to end”
Once again setting the scene perfectly for what this song is about, throwing you straight into the deep end and from telling you so little, you can already tell what the song is going to discuss, from how it sounds to the opening lyrics. It’s about drugs and parties. Showing up at parties, drugged up and drunk and doing stupid shit that you’re going to regret later on.
“Wriggling around in incidents you won't forget
There's certainly some venom in the looks that you collect”

The closer is one last song I want to touch on, the song 505 is usually considered to be one of AM’s best songs, if not their best by everyone, I can definitely see why. For me it’s tied with This House is a Circus as my favourite but it’s close. The song details a lover that Alex can’t wait to see, flying out to see her possibly being from a long distance relationship? It’s uncertain and could just be used as a metaphor, but the main meat of the song is the chorus and the instrumentation that bridges them. It’s a song that starts off relatively calmly, relatively subdued before exploding at the end with emotion. It has an incredibly satisfying pay-off and is an immensely satisfying closer. It’s definitely one of AM’s more emotionally heavy songs, instead of dealing with a scene of people, or a person who they have distaste for, it’s personal and emotional. It closes the album on a sad note, that reality isn’t always peachy, and from everything we’ve heard from this album up to this point, this is just a slap in the face, in the best way possible.

Favourite Tracks: Briastorm, Teddy Picker, Fluorescent Adolescent, Only Ones Who Know, Do Me A Favour, This House is a Circus, If You Were There, Beware, Old Yellow Bricks, 505
Least Favourite Tracks: Balaclava, D is for Dangerous

1 Comment
money well spent
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