by Christopher Dorick
RELEASED: JANUARY 23, 2006
GENRES: POST-PUNK, BRITISH ROCK
Quick take: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is the fastest selling debut album in British music history. The Arctic Monkeys’ first record, and the band itself, is largely considered the ‘original’ internet-music success story. Previously, AM had circulated their demo music through free internet-based options at their disposal – LimeWire, FrostWire, etc. Ultimately, they were signed by Domino and the rest is history. Anyway, onward to the music itself…
At its core, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (WPSIATWIN) is a traditional British rock album, plain and simple. Buzzsaw guitar, fast lyrics, mosh pits, and heavy British accents. Before Alex Turner and co. were the suave and debonair group that all AM fans know and love, they were a scrappy rock/punk crew from Northern England. So, what makes the Monkeys’ first album differ from that of every other British rock band in 2006? Simple: their lyricism. In a quite literal sense, this album speaks of nothing more than teen nightlife in northern England. Enthralling, right? The novelty is that this is executed (for the most part) at visceral, punk caliber speed, yet dripping with stunning imagery. To put it bluntly, you have this British rock-and-roll band that blissfully articulates the culture surrounding the entire group and their peers.
Until 2012, five years after the release of this album, the Arctic Monkeys were quite literally headlining the largest festivals in the UK, long before they could book a headlining spot at a 5k+ person venue in America. Hell, I saw them in 2011 open for The Black Keys. What makes WPSIATWIN abnormal is that they didn’t have music like this in America, at least not yet. The ’90s punk scene in America had given way to pop punk. Bands like Sum 41, New Found Glory, and Blink-182 had replaced ’90s punk and The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and The Strokes replaced ’90s rock. To most Americans, this album was something completely different, but blisteringly powerful. Evidently so powerful that it took them 5+ years to warm up to it. Alex Turner, the frontman of the Arctic Monkeys, is able to convey to Americans the trials and tribulations of British youth in a manner that ultimately has more edge than whine. And if you have listened to any of the pop punk bands I’ve listed above, you know how abnormal that was for the time.
If the only Arctic Monkeys album you’ve listened to is their most recent stunner, AM (2013), you need to hear this one. Now.