We thought we’d celebrate the anniversary of the Arctic Monkey’s mammoth debut record, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, by giving ourselves the unenviable task of the ranking the album’s songs from best to worst.
The album remains, to this day, as one of the last truly great rock and roll records and rightly takes its place in the pantheon of British music history. The record was a hive of buzzing intent and frenetic energy when it roared on to our turntables in 2006, marking the beginning of the most important artist of recent years, Arctic Monkeys.
The Sheffield band, just young upstarts at the time, already had a number one song under their belts with ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and despite protestations from their lead singer Alex Turner, many people had already begun to believe the hype.
Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not would go on to win the Mercury Music prize in 2006, the LP’s concept album status growing by the minute. The record would encapsulate the crystalline feeling of stupid youth and saw the band launch into the stratosphere the likes of which nobody had seen since the glory days of Britpop. The difference being that AM’s contribution had been a level above the rest.
Arctic Monkeys not only delivered a guitar album capable of pulling everyone on to the dancefloor, but they did it without artistic compromise.
Below we rank those songs from best to worst.
‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’
If ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ would be the cue for Arctic Monkeys’ volcano to explode into the air, then ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ was the moving of tectonic plates underneath the surface. The track had been bubbling around in Torrent-led circles for some time and had marked out Arctic Monkeys as one of the future greats.
The song is an adrenaline-fuelled pop at the music industry’s predecessors. The Arctic Monkeys were not some super-trendy band snorting snow and posing; they were four lads from Sheffield who liked to play music, the boys from down the road, your mates. Oh and your new favourite band.
‘A Certain Romance’
The final track on the album always has a lot to live up to. When it’s a concept album about the bright lights and dark lows of a night out in England then you know it has to be something perfect. That’s exactly what the band do as Turner turns John Cooper Clarke and delivers a poetic if not cutting view of youth culture.
It was as if Alex and co were out on a night out at the pub with you.
‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’
This was it, the song that changed it all for the Arctic Monkeys. The hype around the band had been growing for some time but when ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ hit the radiowaves an entire country sat up and paid attention. In one fail swoop, the Arctic Monkeys had captivated a nation.
An indestructible moment for the band which only seemed to gather pace from there onwards. If you’re looking for a eureka moment, this is it.
‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’
If ‘A Certain Romance’ is the end of the evening, ‘From The Ritz To The Rubble’ was when you knew it was time to call it a night. A hundred-mile-an-hour tour through the blood-speckled streets of Little England. As accurate a depiction as you’re ever likely to find all backed with a powerful band who know their power far beyond their years.
“Last night what we talked about, it made so much sense. Now the haze has ascended it don’t make no sense anymore!”
‘When The Sun Goes Down’
What became the anthem of the late-night drunken walk home, ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ or as many people know it ‘Scummy Man’ saw Turner and co. add a little reverence to proceedings.
Arctic Monkeys’ continued performance of the song shows that it still holds weight today.
‘The View From the Afternoon’
Welcome to the party! Matt Helders announces one of the most beloved records of recent times with a now-notorious drum fill.
Buoyed by the song’s video, which saw the band take a cinematic spin, this became the only song to air-drum to. A powerful indication of what was to come.
Ah, a gentle reprieve.
Not only is this track the break from the furious pace of the Apple Sourz-drenched dancefloor we all need by the mid-point of the LP—but it also provides a glimpse back even further to the band’s very inception.
It remains one of the first songs the band used to hand out at their gigs in 2004.
“Get on your dancing shoes / there’s one thing on your mind / hoping they’re looking for you / sure you’ll be rummaging through”—and there you have it, the opening lines so befitting of every pre-drink across the country.
A silver-gilded punch to the face, the song grabs you by the scruff of the neck and watches as you put on the footwear they desire, “you sexy little swine.”
‘Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secured’
Much like ‘Fake Tales’, this track takes us down the smokier side of the band’s sound. A stylish and bass-heavy bop lends a fitting background to Turner’s lyrical tableaux.
The singer’s razor-sharp lyrics cutting through the Reef fog as he depicts the scrapping white-shirted men that fill the side streets every weekend.
Along with a few others, this track stands out to this day as notable for two reasons. Firstly, it’s one of the songs that sounds furthest removed from the band’s current output.
Secondly, it is a shining example of Turner’s dry Yorkshire wit finding its home in the hearts and minds of his audience.
‘Perhaps Vampire Is A Bit Strong But…’
The track possesses some of the most violent energy on the record and hints at the band’s future albums with its heavy rock nods and pounding rhythm.
The song is said to have been Turner’s view on the circling succubuses of the music industry that saw AM as fresh meat.
‘Still Take You Home’
A few pounding notes in and you know this one isn’t for the faint-hearted. The band rips through the cloud with a sharp chorus and a lead line that had us hooked from note one.
‘You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Right At Me’
There was a reason that Arctic Monkeys were the voice of a slightly pissed youth in 2006; they wrote songs like this for the middle of their record. A laser-focused set of imagery painted a picture their listeners knew all too well.
The fact that a song as good as this is our least favourite really says something.