There are a lot of amazing albums released every year within music. Some become our favourites, some reach the top of the charts and some bring about cultural change, but it takes a lot to be considered one of the greatest of all time. Anything less than this description would be an understatement when talking about Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, the spectacular debut album from British Indie icons Arctic Monkeys.
It’s the record where the modern indie rock movement arguably began in Britain. Moving forward from the days of Britpop, with bands like Oasis, Blur and The Stone Roses defining the indie rock scene, Britain’s youth was looking for a new, fresh sound that they could resonate more with in the 21st Century. For a brief couple of years, it looked as though The Libertines would be the ones to take indie rock forward for young Britons, but when their sophomore album in 2004 proved to be their last for the foreseeable future, the genre was left waiting for its next big name. Step forward, Alex Turner and the band.
Upon its release in 2006, the nation quickly realised that this album was everything it had been asking for, immense energy, beautifully constructed music, and a signature British charm that made it a record like no other.
This energy is felt straight away, as the record opens with The View from the Afternoon. This highly explosive track does a brilliant job of showing us what we’re in for right from the word go. The immense guitar riffs and solos, as well as the on point bass and drum work throughout this opening track make it possibly the most complete song on the album, making sure we are aware of the skill of these boys straight away. The energy continues into I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor, with this being the song that ended up becoming the lead single of the record. The fact that this anthem is still being sung by millions around not just the country, but the world to this day is a testament to its brilliance.
Just how outstanding the album is was acknowledged the following year, with it winning Best British Album at the BRIT Awards. This win was surely inevitable when it is considered that it became the fastest selling British album of all time upon its release. The main reason behind the success of the album is undoubtedly the fact that near enough any British person that has ever set foot out their front door can relate to every word out of Turner’s mouth in one way or another. The frontman finds a way to make the whole album feel so familiar to everybody, with descriptions of situations we have all found ourselves in and singing of types of people we all know from somewhere. This sense of familiarity with everything that is sung about on the album is reinforced by the now iconic vocals of Mr Turner. His strong Yorkshire accent compliments the raw, youthful emotion that he is going for throughout the record, and with use of British slang he expertly gives the music one of its key ingredients, attitude. The most prevalent example of this relatability is Mardy Bum, this initially happier sounding track is filled to the brim with references to British culture as it tells the story of a man who’s girlfriend is annoyed with him. Its place in the hearts of Britons everywhere is evident from the fact that it has gained the status of a cult classic.
This attitude and swagger are the reason that everything on this album works so well. It is not attitude in a cocky or slick way, but more in a cheeky, mischievous way that the wider public can all connect with. This tone translates over different song styles too, with Riot Van being a song that oozes with Turner’s cheeky charisma despite the fact that it is a more slow-paced ballad.
Simply put, Whatever People Say I Am… inspired a generation. It gave indie fans across the country a reason to listen, it spoke to them. It would be no exaggeration to claim this album is the greatest out of Britain this century because it is the soundtrack to so many people’s lives. Speaking from experience, since first listening to the record at the start of my teenage years, it has been an ever present in my life, and to so many people I know it is the same. Situations like entire crowds of people singing along to When the Sun Comes Down as it came on the loudspeakers at a festival that Arctic Monkeys weren’t even at, have shown me just how much of an impact this album has had on this current generation. It’s the album that began the era of Arctic Monkeys dominance in the indie ecosystem, and it is still considered by so many to be their best. At risk of sounding cheesy I must say, the world wouldn’t be the same if this album were never released. A true masterpiece.