It’s a tough thing to look back and try to remember considering how emphatically they have rubbished the notion with a solid run of cracking albums, but before the release of Favourite Worst Nightmare, there was a moment when the music world wondered whether the hype should really be believed. The surprise single of ‘Brianstorm’ kicked the naysayers into touch and then ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ poked a lyrical finger into their beleaguered faces.
Not only did ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ prove that they had the pop chops to infiltrate the mainstream, it became such a mainstay of indie culture that everyone will have their own personal past experiences evoked by it every time they hear it. In fact, there are many fellows of a certain generation who will even remember staying up to watch them perform on The Jonathan Ross Show and seeing them emerge dressed as clowns for an early live rendition of this anthem.
Looking back now, the single is a bookmark in time. Even the video, based on the old British television show The Sweeney, was directed by an emerging little known comedy talent named Richard Ayoade, and it starred an up-and-coming clown-costumed Stephen Graham long before he would excel alongside Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and a slew of other greats in The Irishman.
What followed this playful splurge and reverie of youth was the rather more matured Humbug. When the band absconded to the desert to record with Josh Homme at the Joshua Tree, their hair got longer, and the songs followed suit. No longer dripping in the hue of Sheffield nights, the tracks were a darker affair scurried away from the fluorescence of vibrant adolescence. In the end, this move will be looked back on as pivotal in ensuring the evolution, and as such longevity of the band. Not to mention that it was also a masterful record, even if it does get less playtime these days.
When promoting the record, the neon kaleidoscope of the Favourite Worst Nightmare got swirled onto the same palette as Humbug’s mirage and it resulted in an entirely unique acoustic rendition. Record as part of a WRXP Session, Alex Turner crooned out a stripped back and sultry version of the track with the help of sound tech Mystery John, or Father John Mystery as he is now probably known. Remarkably, this session took place way back in December 2009 which seems to defy time itself.
‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ went on to be hugely successful for the band, ensuring they received mainstream glare as the song achieved the rare feat for an indie track of charting in the top five singles in the UK. In fact, it proved such a success that even all three B-sides featured in the top 200.
This stripped-back version might not be as toe-tapping as the original, but in some ways, that’s befitting and offers up a welcome counterpoint. Now, even this rendition allows you to sit back and enjoy a dose of nostalgia from a different viewpoint, and it sounds bloody great.