Six definitive songs: The ultimate guide to Arctic Monkeys
The boys from Sheffield have come a very long way. From the skinny boned, fluffy-haired, polo shirt wearing skivvies of the early-noughties to the silk jacket-wearing swashbucklers we all love today. In truth, we’ve loved Alex Turner and the boys since the very start so we thought we’d bring you Arctic Monkeys’ Six Definitive Songs.
The band have been on an incredible journey to get where they are now. One of the biggest UK acts ever, one of the best musical acts in the world right now and easily one of our favourite bands this century. At one point, the band embodied the working-class culture they were born from, keen to take us out on a Friday night in Sheffield, and now they want to take us to outer space. We’re happy with either destination as long as they’re playing some tunes.
When we’ve done this before with Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen we’ve always had some serious kickback from you lot. So we thought we’d get you even more riled up and only picked one song per studio album.
So, get your pitchforks at the ready because we can already here you mobbing up for our heads on pikes.
Here are Six Definitive Songs: Arctic Monkeys.
‘A Certain Romance’ – Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not
If, like me, you’re on the wrong side of 30 you have seen Alex Turner and the band since they were but wee babies in the very early noughties. If you saw them at 200 capacity venues, if you sang along in pubs and clubs to them, if you impressed your girlfriend with them in the back of your friend’s Vauxhall Nova — then this is the only song that will ever really matter when considering Arctic Monkeys.
The track is a bustling bus stop of musical influences and instruments. Each one vying for its spot at the head of the queue, each offering a different facet of Britain. But where this track is easily a 4/5 instrumentally (the break is just beautiful and the drums still make me feel like a teenager) the lyrics are what makes this song perfect in my opinion.
Taking on the working class cultural shifts from the time, Turner offers a bleak but veracious view of modern Britain. Cultural touchpoints run throughout the song “Reebok Classics”, music only for ringtones, tracky bottoms tucked in socks, and the list goes on and on. For a teenager growing up in Britain at this time it was like Alex was reading your mind and spitting it out over a guitar line to die for.
The album may have been a concept album of sorts with many suggesting it typified the British weekend, but ‘A Certain Romance’ is the realisation that it will never be the same again and that if you’re clever, keep good people around you, and don’t act a twat… that it doesn’t really matter.
“Over there there’s friends of mine, what can I say I’ve known them for a long, long time / and they might overstep the line but you just cannot get angry in the same way.”
Following on from one of the best debuts in UK history, the boys had a big task to keep their crowns as the Kings of the North. They had some work to do. My word, did they do that work well. From the very first notes of this track not only are you transported into Turner’s constructed world, but you’re instantly guaranteed that Arctic Monkey are the real deal.
Musically it’s driven by the heavy bass and drums but effortlessly gilded by the two jousting guitar lines. All the while Turner paints you a picture of a life that refuses to stop living.
“You used to get it in your fishnets/ now you only get in your nightdress/ discarded all the naughty nights for niceness/ landed in a very common crisis,” the lead man sings.
The entirety of the song is focused on the notion of life getting to all of us in the end. A simple premise delivered with gusto and a guttural beat that it’s impossible to not enjoy. Simply bloody brilliant.
‘Crying Lightning’ – Humbug
Who likes a cry baby? Nobody, that’s who. You can count Alex Turner on the list of haters of the people who cry to get their way and if you were in any doubt about it, he’s written you a song to prove it.
‘Crying Lightning’ is a direct reference to the way mascara looks after a particularly tear-sodden evening. Turner’s imagery in this tune continues to develop, offering up an array of tableaux of a scene we’ve all likely seen.
Josh Homme, chosen to produce the album, certainly does have an influence which starts to breakthrough here on the guitar lead line but, in truth, this is Turner at his angsty best. His angry phrasing matched in the tempo of the track while he delivers a confrontational view of ordinary moments. This is where Turner thrives.
‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ – Suck it and See
When the first notes of 2011’s Suck It And See reached our ears we knew that we’d never hear Arctic Monkeys in the same way again. The band had grown, youngsters had become adults and what’s more, adults with a huge amount of success behind them.
The first single from the LP ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, was a different sound for the band. No longer indie-pop darlings they had gone a bit darker, seen a few more things, done a few more tricks, and this track was the proof.
The song, although built on similar principles to the rest of the band’s catalogue, offered the grittier underbelly of the band’s mammoth success and as such this track manages to typify a band in transition.
‘R U Mine’ – AM
2013’s AM saw the band continue their own sound and their own aesthetic. Long gone were the days of their Britpop devotion shining through on every note. No. Alex Turner was taking Arctic Monkeys down an all-together different road.
That dusty and dirty road across the desert on the back of Josh Homme’s Cadillac that led them to this point is in the past and, now, James Ford is well and truly at the helm of the producing. Filled to the brim with heavy drums and effortless fretwork, the song is the shining chrome of the Arctic Monkeys’ big American dream.
Not only is it the song that would effortlessly snap America in two, but the track also provided Alex Turner with the opportunity to fully compound his vocal tone and his perfect delivery on this track (alongside Matt Helders’ brilliant too and fro).
It remains a fan favourite and an absolute belter to drive to with some of your best mates.
‘Four out of Five’ – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
A self-aware and mocking view on the narcissist at the halfway point of the new album from the Sheffield boys sees an inviting land on your doormat. An invite to a taqueria on the moon, and a highly-rated one at that.
Turner takes on gentrification, war, space, natural disaster and basically everything on this track but that’s not the point of the song. No, Turner wants you to drop all that baggage at the door. He wants you to just listen and just enjoy. No review needed, just sit back and enjoy.
It’s the evolution of Turner’s songwriting which strikes a match on this album. No longer able to match the working man’s delights, Turner now wants to provide a rocket ship off this planet and his music is the best way he knows how.
So there it is… the reason for our hate mail in 2019. Obviously, we are very aware this won’t be everyone’s top six Arctic Monkeys songs, but that’s mainly because there are so many more to include.
We could’ve done a top 20 without any fillers. So while you go about making voodoo dolls of Far Out Editors can we all maybe just take a moment to appreciate Arctic Monkeys?