When Arctic Monkeys emerged with ‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor’, they created an instant sensation and all anybody wanted to know was whether they could believe the hype. When tracks like ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ began to follow in its wake, the answer was granted in the joyous affirmative and British music moved into the next gear.
One of the reasons these songs soared was owing to Alex Turner’s unique way of crafting colourful imagery. In a blaze of wordplay and scenes from the weekend, Turner’s early output was a snarling sermon to the ceremony of youth culture. Far from the grim-up-north tropes of champaign socialist art or the seedy kitsch lad-esque style that many of his imitators misinterpreted and then propagated, the Arctic Monkeys present songs like expressionist depictions of the life surrounding them from Friday to Sunday, including a certain ‘Scummy Man’.
Turner’s early trademark tirades of snarling slack-jawed tongue-lashings was not just the sort that you could easily absorb and cast into a movie-of-the-mind, it was more so the prose material for an auteur director to tell the very tale of the life you were living. It certainly wasn’t dull realism either; it held all the power of a punch-up and all the drama that the fateful crossroads a coming-of-age proves to be. It was this very notion that made the song so easy to transpose into the short film, Scummy Man.
Stephen Graham’s star has now rocketed to the heights of sharing major screen time with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in The Irishman, but for years he was already an acclaimed star in the British underground. In the short film Scummy Man, based on ‘When the Sun Goes Down’, he plays a despicable genital scratching fellow befitting of the film’s title.
The official synopsis of the flick reads: “Nina is easy to find. She is on the industrial estate, near the gas tower, She is fifteen, addicted to drugs and on the game. George is one of her nastier punters. His arrival turns the temperature up on her already combusting life.”
Continuing the grisly tale by adding: “He is the scummiest of scummy men, someone you really don’t want to be involved with, at all. A magician and a taxi driver offer Nina a quick fix but doesn’t everyone want something in return? She won’t take it lying down. Scummy Man is a gripping glimpse into the lost and misplaced lives on today’s back streets. The film is brutally honest, intense and not afraid.”
Directed by Paul Fraser and also starring Lauren Socha, Andrew Turner, David McClelland and more, the scathing short film was released in 2006 by Domino records in conjunction with the single. It is dark and certainly not safe for work, but it is also well worth a watch. What’s more, it also earmarked the inherent artistry brooding throughout Arctic Monkeys work and like Charles Baudelaire fronting an indie band it showed they had the depth and intent to make them a cut above the rest.
We invite you to cautiously enjoy the brutal short film below.