A Certain Romance – Arctic Monkeys

I’ve lost my way with Arctic Monkeys over the last four or five years. I’m not sure where things are at with them these days and what the fans like, don’t like, cheer for and sing along with. Back in the first flush of the band (the only time I saw them live) this was considered the big finale. It’s a bit of a center piece on that iconic debut album. This almost talk-walk through the feels of many a modern estate perspective never sounded more convincingly small time than…

“Though he might wear classic Reebok, or knackered Converse, or trackie bottoms tucked in socks, oh but that’s what the point is not, the point is there ain’t no romance around here”

You must by now know I’m a sucker for a well placed rhyming couplet and a kitchen sink drama lyrical subject. This is the 21st Century’s Up The Junction. That winsome bit of ‘Dr John Cooper Clarke reads a Taste Of Honey to the Mandems’ comes after a pummeling metallic overture and accompanied by a genteel indie jangle. The early Arctics (Victorian Ice?) was all clever word play and post Smiths (barely post Libertines) jangle pop. Much was written of the East Coast hip hop via Rotherham lyrical stylings and ‘Ow Do?’ attitude of Indie Scrappy Doo front-man Alex Turner. He’s grown comfortably into the role of rock and roll golden god in the intervening decade. Fair play. All rock stars should come from Sheffield. It’s a quality control thing.

“And there’s the truth that they can’t see, they’d probably like to throw a punch at me and if you could only see ’em, then you would agree, agree that there ain’t no romance around there”

Except there is isn’t there? It may not be “Shall I compare thee to a summers day?” but this is brimming with romance already. That street level romance that notices the mundane and revels in it. Rock and roll music made by plain looking lads like the (then) teenage Arctic Monkeys is a beautiful thing. Within five years they were dressing like James Dean and within less than a decade they’d gone and got lost in the desert with Josh Homme, lent Beatles covers to The Olympics, headlined Glastonbury, loaned players to Iggy Pop (Helders!) and had more side projects, film scores, changes in direction and headlines than many legacy bands manage in a whole career.

The Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino challenge may have left many a 12th Wave Britpop Mad Ferret bemused, but it undoubtedly is a long and winding road of creativity from A Certain Romance.

I didn’t follow Radiohead every step of the way when they transitioned from the British bridge between Britpop and Grunge via Pre-millennial tension to a sort of Weather Report does Dark Wave Trip Hop experiment. I haven’t followed the Monkeys that closely either. Those first three albums though. They took up a big chunk of my subconscious at the time.

Whatever I Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is still their best record despite Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug building on the rules of the debut with muscle and texture. The multifaceted Suck It And See and super slick AM made them megastars and TBHAC made them weird and arty all over again. Although in reality it was the first time they weren’t scene kids playing dress up since the debut.

“Don’t get me wrong though there’s boys in bands and kids who like to scrap with pool-cues in their hands and just ‘cos he’s has a couple o’ cans he thinks it’s alright to act like a dickhead, don’t cha know”

It’s the honesty of this track I love the most. These lads aren’t cool or born to do it. They’re not even particularly that rock and roll at this stage. The once future kings sound somewhat dated only by the lyrical reference to Ringtones in a later verse. Nothing stops a moment in time from becoming a timeless moment like an outdated bit of cutting edge. The Arctic Monkeys were a working class band of working class lads making working class pop for working class fans. Well and truly Up The Junction.

“Well, over there, there’s friends of mine, what can I say? I’ve known ’em for a long long time and, yeah, they might overstep the line, but you just cannot get angry in the same way, No, not in the same way”

Britpop in all but era.

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