Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

Label: Domino Records

The expectations on second albums are hardly what they were now, are they? An end-to-end schedule of ‘Sam’s Towns’,  ‘Winning Days’ and ‘Room On Fires’ have somewhat subdued our giddy abandon, our impossible hopes and dreams traded (perhaps quite understandably) for ‘more of the same’ or an album ‘with a few good tracks on it’; the risk of musical triumph falling in direct relation to the potential for disappointment. It’s a post ‘Be Here Now’ thing, a post ‘Kid A’ thing. Why push musical boundaries when you can continue to push sales? Why prise open the doors of perception when there are still perfectly good deals to be closed? And there’s something to be said for easing up expectations. The Beatles didn’t follow-up ‘Please Please Me’ with ‘Sgt. Pepper’. ‘Pet Sounds’ didn’t come hot off the heels of ‘Surfin Safari’ and it was a full six years before ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ eclipsed ‘The Piper At The Gates of Dawn’. It’s win-win situation: bands get time to gel and perfect the fidgety, excitable and inevitably flawed debut and fans get something that actually sounds like it – and occasionally better. In the same way you don’t hand the keys of your Vauxhall Astra to the first child who’s succeeded in riding without stabilizers, you don’t hand a blank cheque to a band that yet to prove they can get through a month without sacking a founding member. In any other industry, you would be looking at ‘brand equity’. It would be all about consistently meeting or exceeding customer thoughts, providing a tangible track record. – ‘giving ‘em what they want rather than something entirely different.

And that is precisely what you have here: ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ neither exceeds nor frustrates expectations; it’s like the first one only harder, tighter, bolder. Yes, it’s older, of course it is, but it’s still none-the-wiser and bristling with all the hooks and observations that gatecrashed the original party, Alex Turner no longer hovering around the local Spar with his mates but buying his own drinks and smoking his own ciggies with all the rest of the serious boozers down the local. If ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ was the tinny, extraneous sound of something good being played in a bar you couldn’t get into, then ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ is like being handed a ticket and finding that the whole thing is far, far heavier than you’d ever imagined. The song-structures are straighter, the bass and the beats more defined and because of the greater contrast of mood between the songs, there’s arguably more dimensions. The nervous, frenetic energy of the breakneck debut has also given way to a more deliberate, more confident stride. ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ perfects the witty, discourteous garage pop of ‘Mardy Bum’, ‘If You Were There’ adds an entirely new skankier, smokier, proggier dimension, ‘Brianstorm’ raises the temperature and the distortion on ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ and ‘505’ twists the knife of romance that little bit deeper than ‘Despair In The Departure Lounge’ could ever have imagined – and proves to be the band’s finest moment to date – the Duane Eddy surf-guitar adding a noirish, eerie charm this and other tunes on the album.

In a nutshell, there must be four guys wandering around London’s Shoreditch without any thunder – because these four monkeys have stolen it.

Release: Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
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Released: 10 May 2007