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Music

Recalling the strange moment Arctic Monkeys covered Girls Aloud

Back in the day, BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge usually represented the chance for a pop artist to display an eclectic mix that strayed outside of the expected. Arctic Monkeys did the opposite—as an alternative act they decided to tackle one of the most mainstream tracks around in a subversive move for the ages.

This decision announced the Sheffield scallies as jokers. The class clowns of indie who giggled their way through the pop performance like they’d all had a little bit too much blue drink in their bellies. Matt Helders tried to hold things together but even he cracks up as though some silent sketch was unfolding in the Maida Vale studio. 

At the time, Girls Aloud were chart-toppers of the highest order and their 2004 track ‘Love Machine’ was still getting widespread radio play. Enter the new cool kids to show that they were so cool that could risk being very uncool and still pull it off—that was the obvious motive and they just about pulled it off thanks that their competent musicianship which just about made it a bop all the same. 

Ironically, the original track already had a bit of an alternative backbone. Songwriters Nick Coler and Tim Powell drew instrumental inspiration from The Smiths and as it happens it was that very band that had a huge bearing on Alex Turner getting into music, providing this tale with some strange symmetry. 

As Turner once said: “The guy who taught me how to drive lent me two Smiths LPs – the first record and Hatful Of Hollow. I’d been bought a Best Of on CD by an aunt before then, but I wasn’t quite ready for it. But he lent those two records to me one afternoon, and I put them on the record player in my mum and dad’s living room. It was something about the ceremony of taking it out of the sleeve, putting in on the turntable and feeling that you almost had to sit with it that got me into that band.”

Maybe Turner had read Alexis Petridis Guardian review of the Girls Aloud record which had correctly identified the musical inspiration and commented: “It sounds, incredibly, like the Smiths’ Rusholme Ruffians colliding head-on with that band’s musical nemesis, chirpy 1980s synth-pop.” 

Either way, the result will also bring about as much befuddlement as amusement, and you’ll probably tap a toe too. Revel in the nostalgia and check it out once more below. 

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