With news breaking this month that Sheffield heroes Arctic Monkeys are on the verge of completing their new album, drummer Matt Helders has shed light on the record, revealing to fans that stylistically, the currently untitled body of work is something of a direct successor to 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
In a new interview with Mike Dolbear for DrumathonLIVE 2022, Helders said: “It kinda like picks up where the other one [Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino] left off musically”.
“I mean, it’s never gonna be like [2012 AM single] ‘R U Mine?’ and all that stuff again, you know, the heavy riffs and stuff,” he added. “But there are riffs in there and [it’s] a bit more up-tempo, even though it’s not loud,” he said. “It’s hard to explain!”
This got us thinking. If the “heavy riffs and stuff” are never to return, which I imagine will be much to the ire of many long-term Arctic Monkeys fans, then what are the band’s heaviest songs? Notably, they’re not exactly known for being the heaviest band on the planet, but they have had a handful of moments where they’ve flirted with the darkness and devil horns that make so many music fans tick.
Famously, their Josh Homme-produced period surrounding their third album Humbug produced some truly visceral moments, but as they segued out of that towards the Black Sabbath rip-off/hip hop hybrid of A.M. they started to dial it down considerably, resulting in the mellow artistic masterpiece that is Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
So today, we’re listing Arctic Monkeys’ ten heaviest songs. Expect to see some classics and some lesser-known cuts, as once upon a time, the band were one of the most prominent proponents of the B-side out there. We’re heading down memory lane to the days when the band placed the guitar before all else and invariably made our eardrums ring.
Just a word of warning, we’ve left ‘Brianstorm’ out as apart from the intro and outro, it’s not that heavy.
Arctic Monkeys’ 10 heaviest cuts:
‘The View from the Afternoon’ – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
A fan favourite, ‘The View from the Afternoon’ has been a vital part of Arctic Monkeys’ sets since they first released it as the opening track on the band’s 2006 debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Many people who had bought the album off the back of the hit singles, ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor‘ and ‘When the Sun Goes Down’, could not believe how thunderous this cut is.
Whilst the guitar playing is something to behold with Alex Turner and Jamie Cook cranking up their usual pace, the heaviness of this track comes via Matt Helders, who delivers one of his finest moments to date. Covering every inch of the drum kit, he instils the song with the energy that has remained so influential all these years.
‘Red Right Hand’ – Crying Lightning (2009)
A cover of Nick Cave‘s haunting 1994 classic, what Arctic Monkeys did with the source material was a clear reflection of their imagination, and via the influence of Josh Homme, they managed to instil Cave’s original with a greater sense of darkness, which is augmented by the misshapen guitars and the creepy Vox Super Continental Organ that Turner plays.
The B-side to the 2009 single ‘Crying Lightning’, was the very start of the Sheffield group’s adventure in the South Californian desert, and afterwards, they would never be the same again.
‘Fright Lined Dining Room’ – Cornerstone (2009)
One of the more lesser-known cuts on this list, that shouldn’t diminish the brilliance of ‘Fright Lined Dining Room’, the B-side to the sing-your-heart-out anthem of ‘Cornerstone’. It starts with a very Arctic Monkeys rhythm with bassist Nick O’Malley providing one of his typically bouncy basslines, similar to ‘Brianstorm’, providing a stylistic bridge between Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug.
The song trudges along, and for the duration, you’re wondering where it’s going as Turner delivers a catchy chorus. Then, around the two-minute mark, this incredibly dark riff fades in, and I kid you not when I say that you could hear this on a Swans record. You’re surprised at just how heavy the band are able to make it and are equally as miffed that they didn’t extend it for another 30 seconds.
‘Pretty Visitors’ – Humbug (2009)
Potentially the most expected entry on this list, ‘Pretty Visitors’ from Humbug remains one hell of a ride even 13 years later. Turner almost veers into the realm of rap with the breakneck speed of his vocal performance, which is ballasted by the band absolutely having it.
Whether it be Helders’ ominous drums, Cook and O’Malley linking up for the equally as sinister guitar and bass lines, or Turner singing about snakepits, at the time, that breakdown was the heaviest thing the band had ever produced. Adding to the party, who can forget one of Alex Turner’s most iconic lyrical outings: “What came first, the chicken or the dickhead?”
‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair (2011)
I think it’s safe to say that ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’
is the heaviest riff that the band have ever recorded. Whilst drop d isn’t the heaviest tuning by any stretch of the imagination, it did take the indie heroes who previously wrote plinky riffs such as ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ to a different level.
Everyone remembers the first time they heard this track as Nick O’Malley’s bass pounds through the speakers, giving the band the muscle that they’d always been after. As Turner sings, “Do the Macarena in the devil’s lair”, you know that the band have come far from their humble beginnings and nights out in Sheffield. This is stoner rock to a tee, and we love it.
‘The Blond-O-Sonic Shimmer Trap’ – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair (2011)
One of the B-sides to ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, ‘The Blond-O-Sonic Shimmer Trap’ is more stoner rock goodness, and it remains a personal favourite of the band’s. It glides along like a motorbike on the empty California highways, and it makes a strong claim to be the coolest song the band have released to date.
The guitar line that fades into the mix in the latter half of the song is so Queens of the Stone Age, it’s just fantastic. Furthermore, the lyric “She floats like a niccy-rush but she stings like a B-flat”, showed that Alex Turner hadn’t really gone anywhere.
‘Brick by Brick’ – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair / Suck It and See (2011)
Taken from 2011’s Suck It and See, ‘Brick by Brick’ is a lighthearted song that sees that band drop any pretences and have a bit of fun. Turner claimed that the song was intended to include under 30 words, a technique he borrowed from Iggy Pop, “since we always do songs with a thousand words”.
He explained: “Even though it is dumbed down, we know it, and it’s got a sense of humour… (t)here have always been jokes all over our songs; I originally started writing lyrics to make my friends crack a smile, which is difficult.”
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Josh Homme performing the swaggering guitar line in the segment where it slows down.
‘I.D.S.T.’ – Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair (2011)
The final track from the ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ single, ‘I.D.S.T’ has long been a cult favourite amongst diehard Arctic Monkeys fans. In an interview, Alex Turner said ‘I.D.S.T’ stands for “If Destroyed Still True”, and confirmed it as the second part to ‘Brick by Brick’.
A destructive sentiment permeates the track. As Helders delivers a wailing vocal performance, the band chime in with some good old fashioned rock. There are flecks of Black Sabbath and psychobilly here, making it one of the best products of the band’s time in the desert.
‘Evil Twin’ – Suck It and See (single) (2011)
The B-side to ‘Suck It and See’, ‘Evil Twin’ was a success when it too was released with a music video, carrying on the biker’s story from the video of the former. Starting with Helders bashing his toms, the band then kick with a simple but high-octane riff. There’s a real atmosphere to this track, which is again carried by the strength of O’Malley’s bassline.
Check out the whispered lyric “bad news” in the middle as the band drop out, which clearly took its inspiration from ‘First It Giveth’ by Queens of the Stone Age. ‘Evil Twin’ set a precedent for the likes of ‘R U Mine?’ and ‘Arabella’, so it deservedly pipped them for a place on this spot.
‘You And I’ – Black Treacle (2012)
A more obscure Arctic Monkeys cut featuring fellow Sheffielder Richard Hawley, ‘You and I’ was the B-side to ‘Suck it and See’, and is credited to Hawley and The Death Ramps, the band’s alter ego. A cacophonous piece of desert rock, whether it be the two solos, Helders’ dynamic drumming or Hawley’s gruff vocals, this release came just before ‘R U Mine?’, and you know what came after.
There are two notable facets of this song, the first is Hawley’s ridiculously rock ‘n’ roll lyric, “I had a woman, she went away / And now I’m lonely, fuck it”, and the other is how Turner attempts to sound like the late Mark Lanegan towards the end.