Written by Charlie Morel
2017 is a year of intense anticipation for Arctic Monkeys fans. After the band ended their gigantean tour for 2013’s AM with Reading and Leeds festival in 2014, they embarked on a well deserved hiatus, with frontman Alex Turner returning to work on The Last Shadow Puppets, who released their excellent second album, Everything You’ve Come to Expect last year.
As such, speculation surrounding the band’s return has continued to grow, particularly after the band were spotted late last year back in their native Sheffield. With many an eye focused on the summer and potential tour announcement, many fans may have overlooked this week completely.
While St. George’s Day may be of little significance to Arctic Monkey fans, Favourite Worst Nightmare is, and ten years ago today, it was released to the world.
The Arctic’s debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not had been a huge critical and commercial success, and had placed the band at the forefront of the mid-noughties indie revival to follow in the steps of their heroes The Libertines and The Strokes.
Fans who had fallen in love with the album didn’t have to wait long for the band’s second effort, with just a year separating the two albums. Much like the first, Favourite Worst Nightmare begins with an explosion of drums, guitar and bass that perfectly captures the energy of the early stage of their career.
Brianstorm is a 2:53 hurricane of a song that firmly reminded those listening the power this young band possessed, and still has that same impact ten years on. Similarly, Teddy Picker and Old Yellow Bricks both contain riffs of pure dynamism, and stood as worthy contemporaries to anything from the first album.
While naturally compared and considered alongside the first album, FWN must not just be seen as its counterpart to the early part of the band’s career. This record shows the first important steps of progress the band made through their next albums. Humbug is often dismissed for being too different and inferior to the first two records, but would not have been possible without the advances made here.
Much of this is reflected in the lyrics of Turner, who showed maturity and experience well beyond his young age throughout. Though songs such as Balaclava, D Is For Dangerous, and This House Is A Circus are similar to the first album by reflecting on nights of naughtiness and life as a young person in 21st Century Britain, Turner also shows off his more romantic and poetic side.
Arguably the most celebrated track from the album, Fluorescent Adolescent, is a song about love and longing for days past, themes previously unexplored but one’s that became part of Turner’s writing identity later in his career.
Similarly, Only Ones Who Know and 505 both display the maturity of Turner’s lyrics, and the advancement he had made when writing about love and relationships, presenting the emotions and realities these incur impressively.
Furthermore, the sounds of these two songs also displayed the progress the band was making. The experimentation with effects pedals and additional instruments opened up incredible opportunities, that were fully demonstrated in Humbug and helped to mould both Suck It and See and AM.
Favourite Worst Nightmare is in some senses an album of transition then, and is reflected even in the tracklisting of the album itself. Beginning with the explosiveness seen in Whatever…and ending with the experimentation that would characterise Humbug, we see a group that was in total confidence of their ability.
While the album doesn’t have the consistency of the first album nor the glamour of the last, it is arguably their most important, and deserves to be seen as such.
Listen to Fluorescent Adolescent below and fall into that Arctic trance.
Credit: Domino Recording Co.