By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)
If you strike up a conversation about Arctic Monkeys with people, it will mostly lead to a discussion on Alex Turner and his recent persona, perhaps a speculation of when and if they will make another album or maybe just agreeing on how great their debut is. Even if you were to have a more in-depth discussion on their music, it seems that the primary focus is usually on Whatever People Say I Am Is What I’m Not and if it ever does deviate, it tends to swing towards their strangest album (Humbug) or their most divisive (AM). Whilst their debut more than deserves its timeless recognition, it often seems to overshadow the very thing it created.
Just teenagers when they were propelled to fame, the Sheffield foursome quickly because one of the biggest bands in the world following their debut album in 2006. Already having amassed a following of loyal fans, some may have been skeptical when a follow-up album was arriving little over a year later. Thankfully, ten years later we can look back and, if anything, be grateful that it came so soon. Favourite Worst Nightmare is the perfect blend of a second album as it has the same energy that made us love their debut so much. In addition, Alex Turner’s wit is still at large and, coupled with improved lyricism from their debut, it shows growth that fans would have hoped for. In this instance and almost every other aspect, Favourite Worst Nightmare is essentially WPSIAIWIN 2.0 but what stops it from being just a repeat, and the very fact that we are even talking about it ten years on, is that Arctic Monkeys were just that good at this point: 4 musicians at their peak just making music they enjoyed and while that sounds cliched, it is the very reason that Favourite Worst Nightmare is a classic.
Just as WPSIAIWIN was mostly a collection of stories and observations of life in Sheffield, FWN is similar in the way most of the tracks are still observational but have a broader scope. Album opener Brianstorm is literally just about a guy the band met on tour and somehow Turner manages to turn this into one of their most iconic singles and, as on the entire album, Matt Helders drumming alone is enough to cement the album into our memories. A noticeable difference on Favourite Worst Nightmare is a stronger focus on relationships and having Turner’s attention on such matters leads to album highlights such as hilarious one-liners on Fluorescent Adolescent. However when he isn’t comparing penis sizes and referring to them as a “Mecca Dauber or a betting pencil“, Turner proves to have grown along with his bands sound as The Only Ones Who Know is an emotive track about the feeling of a new relationship that seems to make everything else seem obsolete. It is perhaps an often overlooked Arctic Monkeys song but provides a more optimistic outlook on love than usual and is yet another surprising highlight that makes Favourite Worst Nightmare as vital to Arctic Monkeys‘ discography as it is.
Although these tracks are highlights, they by no means overshadow the rest of the album and each track feels necessary. The transition from This House Is A Circus into If You Were There, Beware is memorable in its own right and the album is full of moments of pure musical enjoyment such as that. However, it is undeniable that musically Helders is the stand-out, so much so that he deserves a second mention as it’s hard to imagine this album existing without him. Fortunately, Favourite Worst Nightmare finishes as strongly as it starts with 505, a now universally adored song that Arctic Monkeys play with limitless glee at the end of every gig and with every listen, it instantly states itself as being a career defining track.
What could have been just a carbon copy of their acclaimed debut, Favourite Worst Nightmare is the perfect response, an album that feels like a natural growth that stands on its own and, even ten years, on remains a masterpiece.