Thursday, February 25, 2021

‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ 15 Years Later

Alcohol, clubbing, and night outs, all things that seem pretty foreign in 2021 whilst we go through this global pandemic, but 15 years ago, the Sheffield indie rock band Arctic Monkeys created one of the most iconic albums of the 21st century, almost documenting their northern night out. The 2006 album, released on 26th January, is considered to be a concept album concerning “the lives of young Northern England Clubbers”. 

‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ takes it name a line from the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, written by Alan Silitoe. Frontman Alex Turner chose the title as he recognised the similarities and appropriateness of the title between the album and the novel - linking the going out on Saturday Night then coming home on a Sunday morning

In January 2006, I was only 5 years old, it was only in my teen years where I listened and absolutely fell in love with the album, as did many others. It is safe to say that ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ has most definitely inspired and defined another generation of people, 15 years from release and it is clear that the Arctic Monkeys have gained more and more fans from different age groups. 

This album is a must have, it is an easy listen, it is relatable, especially for teenagers and people in their early 20s. The popularity of the album would make you think that the album had only been released in the last few years, not 15 years ago. The album includes a lot of indie rock, garage rock revival and post-punk revival. The iconic guitar riffs, the recognisable vocals, the catchy bass, the upbeat drums, and the most iconic lyrics have been combined together to become one of the best rock albums of its decade and one of the greatest albums of the 21st century. It’s a timeless album filled with some of the greatest songs Arctic Monkeys have released in their discography. ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ really helped shaped the bands sound. The album is the fastest selling debut album in the British music industry, selling 360,000 copies the first week of release. It has since gone 6x Platinum in the UK. 

October 2005, we got our first taste of the album, getting to hear arguably one of the bands most iconic songs and following probably one of the most famous Alex Turner quotes, “this is I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, don’t believe the hype”. The song debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart in October 2005 for one week. ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ was released as the second single from the album in January 2006, also debuting at number one on the UK singles charge and becoming their second consecutive UK number-one single.

Throughout songs such as ‘The View from the Afternoon’, ‘Dancing Shoes’, ‘Still Take You Home’ and ‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’ all cover that bit of the weekend, and feature the same character.

All the tracks from the album are from a first-person narrative, taking on board that ‘Northern nightlife’. Tracks such as ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, ‘Still Take You Home’, ‘You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights but You Were Staring Straight at Me’ and ‘Dancing Shoes’ all go into and examine the behaviour and scenarios you could see in nightclubs. But then you go into tracks like ‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’ talking about the nightclub bouncer, ‘Red Light Indicated Doors Are Secured’ goes in about the trouble of getting a taxi home after a night out (I'm sure we’ve all been in that position before!). Prostitutes in the locality of the band's practice room in the Neepsend district of Sheffield inspired the iconic track ‘When the Sun Goes Down’. You can see a theme of romantic relationships throughout some tracks on the album, this is played through ‘Mardy Bum’ or youth subcultures which is more so shown in ‘Fake Takes of San Francisco’ and ‘A Certain Romance’. The album only includes one slowed down track on the album which is of course, 'Riot Van’. The track tells the tale of a group of unruly British youth taunt the police until one of them finally lets thrown in the riot van and taken away. ‘Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But…’, Alex Turner was asked about the meaning of the songs, he simply answered that it is actually was written regarding the people of Sheffield and their lack of support.

We can’t go without talking about the iconic album cover, which most people believe to be Adam Sandler and definitely creating a lot of memes and discussions online. The album artwork is 19 year old Chris McClure who is a close friend of the band and frontman of The Violet May. The iconic photo was taken in the early hours of the morning in Korova Bar in Liverpool. The band had given McClure, his cousin, and his best friend, £70 to spend on a night out.

Within the 15 years Alex Turner, Jamie Cook, Andy Nicholson, and Matt Helders, went onto win Best British Breakthrough Act in 2006 at the Brit Awards. Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not’, won Best British Album and the band won Best British Group at the 2007 Brit Awards.

This album has now become a staple in my music library and one I would recommend to anyone, especially if you’re into indie music. No album in the last 15 years has come close to this and I don’t think any other album will. I am truly looking forward to seeing more music come from the Arctic Monkeys and hopefully, we get something else ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.

Shauna Grimmett



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