Drowned in Sound: Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Drowned in Sound
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
by Kodi McKinney, DJ at U92
Last year, Arctic Monkeys were the recipients of about as much hype as any new English group could hope to receive. Their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, earned rave reviews in the global rock press thanks to their vivid tales of late nights in British clubs and their exceptional songwriting. The follow-up, Favourite Worst Nightmare, laughs in the face of the short rest between albums (a scant 15 months) and raises the bar to stratospheric heights.
Favourite Worst Nightmare is more developed than its predecessor; it rocks harder and has more musical depth. As if to underscore this point, a flip through the album booklet reveals a conspicuous lack of lyrics. Arctic Monkeys were probably tired of everyone focusing mainly on their words. It's an understandable trap, as the lyrics are delivered in bulk with wit on par with the best that hip-hop and folk artists have to offer. Often equally sordid and charming, the lines to songs such as "The Bad Thing" and "Teddy Picker" ensure considerable replay value.
But aside from the lyrics, the big difference that separates these guys from the rest of the Brit-rock pack is their seriously gutsy delivery. When it's time to rock, rhythms and riffs aren't just played; they're delivered with a reckless yet precise momentum, much like punk with twice the polish. In particular, the crushing groove of "Balaclava" will either kill you or make you dance. "D Is For Dangerous" takes it a step further with Alex Turner's frantic vocal delivery, which straddles an intriguing line between tuneful and scrappy.
Turner has one moment where his melodic side takes Jeff Buckley-levels of prominence. "Only Ones Who Know" shows an unexpected beauty to Arctic Monkeys, filled with aching emotion and incredible atmosphere courtesy of Jamie Cook's guitar. It shines like a diamond, totally worth the price of admission on its own merits.
Closer listening will discern unusual elements that come and go throughout Favourite Worst Nightmare, such as the fuzzed-out bass lick in the middle of "This House Is a Circus." None of these moments sound forced, and Arctic Monkeys even manage to make them into mini-hooks of sorts. Even weaker songs like "Old Yellow Bricks" are still unusually addictive with substance to spare. Look elsewhere for filler; on this album, it simply does not happen.
That is probably because this is more than just an album. This is its genre's modern pinnacle, a grand untouchable gem that may only be outshined someday by Arctic Monkeys themselves. When I heard their debut, I was impressed but not enthralled; this time, enthralled would be an understatement. Hooks with substance, brilliant emotional range, dense yet accessible - Favourite Worst Nightmare has it all, and it is my early pick for alternative album of the year. There will be bands using this as a blueprint years from now. It is doubtful that any of them will come close.
Rating: 5 out of 5