Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was and remains the fasting selling debut album in British music history. On its release it was rapturously received by the music press and won the 2006 Mercury Music Prize for Best Album, among many, many other accolades. It has gone quintuple platinum for sales in the UK and has sold more than three million copies worldwide.
Naturally, a bunch of whippersnappers with regional British accents having success like this was always going to annoy people of a certain mind-set, and some of these reactionaries have taken to the reviews section of everybody’s favourite online retail giant to vent their fury. And please note, there are A LOT of these reviews and some of them get VERY angry!
For example, here’s RW having his say on Whatever People Say… in a review from 2006 entitled “Look who escaped from the zoo!”:
“Arctic monkeys is an apt name for this band of slouching, knuckle dragging, ‘pop-punk’ apes. They certain [sic] sound as if they are stuck somewhere prior to evolution, strumming on bananas and hurling their own ‘shit’ (the music) everywhere!”
It was nice of RW to explain his ‘shit’ metaphor for us there. He obviously felt that the meaning of ‘strumming on bananas’ was self-explanatory though. RW continues:
“This is undoubtably [sic] the worst album i have heard this year and ranks in my top 3 worst ever. I know that everyone has their own opinion but honestly, if you’ve got half a musical brain you should be able to see the artic [sic] monkeys for what they really are.”
What’s that then, RW?
“The Arctic Monkeys aren’t musicians, they are bullshit-merchants… delivering easy listening music for the affluent hip”
Ah, OK. Fair enough. Thanks.
SS seems to agree with him anyway. His 2006, one-star review is titled “The media say this is good, So thats why I buy it”, to make sure everyone knows that he’s immune to the hype surrounding it.
“I feel shame and pity for all you people going out to buy this album! I am very bitter! All the good bands before the monkeys who received little to no recognition must be turning in their graves!”
This kind of assumes that everyone who was ever in an underappreciated band before the Arctic Monkey, died prior to 2006, which seems unlikely to me. Anyway, SS is our trusted and impartial arbiter, unimpressed by hype and able to focus on the music itself with searing, brutal honesty. He continues:
“Don’t get me wrong I like what I have heard of the songs”
Huh? You like the songs? What was all that “I feel shame and pity” talk about then? Why the one-star rating?
Maybe it’ll become clear as the review continues (spoiler: it won’t):
“I cannot understand why it is going to be the fastest selling debut album ever beating Definitely Maybe (what is going on?). The monkeys are overrated beyond belief a good band yes but why so big I’m sure they even have to ask why themselves that.”
Still, overhyped and overrated are recurring themes in the one-star reviews, as if they’re the fault of the band.
“The most over-hyped band that I can ever remember. Arctic Monkeys – see Roget’s thesaurus for drivel, pants, mince, torture, white noise.”
Says KP, whose thesaurus seems to be broken. Ch meanwhile says:
“IT IS NOT BETTER THAN THE BEATLES”
Which may be true, but seems like a slightly unfair standard to be setting. JA is similarly furious at not having his high expectations met:
“Lyrics? You can barely hear them and they’re hardly Larkin or Plath.”
I don’t know, you get yourself a few thumbs-ups from the NME and all of a sudden you’re asked to hold your own against two of the 20th Century’s greatest poets and the most popular band of all time. Doesn’t that seem a little harsh? It gets worse too. An anonymous review from 2006 says:
“The hype for this album is quite shocking, because it is not the best album ever nor ever will be!”
Now I get this sort of cynicism, I really do. Hype can be very off-putting to a certain sort of music fan! By 2006 I too was already old enough and cynical enough to be unimpressed by this sort of hysteria and to have heard it all before. I might never have bothered with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not if one friend in particular hadn’t kept bugging me to give the album a chance. But to dock an album points just because other people like it seems perverse!
For instance, this is how DFAW closes his 2006 review:
“2 stars rather than 3 to balance the hype”
Anyone see the irony here? If that’s not allowing yourself to be affected by hype, I’m not sure what is.
Aside from those reviewers queueing up to trash the Arctic Monkeys for not having created the greatest album of all time, you also get some downright weird reviews. Like BJ, a 2007 American reviewer who wrote:
“Wow, I was appalled and ashamed. These songs, besides all sounding alike, sound like they’re written and performed by a group of hooligans who can’t strum their wee wees.”
Or CS who dredges up this little yarn from his limited imagination:
“It’s your girlfriend’s best friend’s sister’s wedding, the dj turns off spandau ballet for a short interlude- a few lads who the bride used to go to school with have formed a band and are going to play a few numbers. The dj calls everyone to attention and the band run us through ‘fake tales of san francisco’, ‘When the sun goes down’ and ‘I bet you look good on the dancefloor’ (Aunty Maud particularly liked this one- ‘But’, she added, ‘why does he sing in such a funny voice?’. The crowd applaud generously and scuttle off in search of sausage rolls, champagne and a dance with a bride’s maid, while the dj puts spandau back on- right from the point where he left it.”
OK, mate! Or finally, and weirdest of all, F24 who was so utterly furious about the Arctic Monkeys back in 2006, he left a 571 WORD, one-star review/rant about their debut album entitled, a tad melodramatically, “I have stared directly into the void of the human soul”. It’s almost all wrong too, and here are some of the highlights:
“The Arctic Monkeys are a Frankenstein’s monkster [sic] of record Company cynicism. They seem like the product of market research, focus groups, bar charts, pie charts and a few too many listens of ‘Up The Bracket’.”
“And that Voice! All the charm of syphilis straight from the back streets of some Yorkshire town.”
“It’s so forced and contrived, it screams ‘middle class boys overcompensating’ or should I say ‘MIDDLE CLASS BOYS OVER COMPENSAATIN”
“So not only is it irritating, it fails to connect on any sort of emotional level. Of course, emotions are for ‘gurls’. These guys probably worked in coal mines before they got signed, and you don’t talk about your feelings down there.”
“Not that it matters but they’re horrible people, arrogant, mysoginistic, homophobic, unintellegent, illiterate morons who would probably call Liam Gallagher ‘ded braaineh’.”
“This album is the lowest common denominator of 21st Century culture. It may not seem like it but it’s afraid. It’s afraid of it’s own feelings, it’s afraid of alienating people by talking about something that no one knows about.”
“Yes, everyone has fallen out with a bouncer, everyone has had a bigger guy push them around. Everyone has also eaten muffins, tripped on a loose paving flag, drank water, watched adverts for shampoo and tied their shoe laces. It does not mean that songs about such things are an incicive comment on modern life. May their fall from grace be quick and painful. Whenever it is I hope I’m still alive.”
Phew! Such anger! 12 years, five further Arctic Monkeys albums on and still no sign of that “quick and painful fall from grace”, I wonder if F24 is still alive and waiting for it. If he/she’s got that wound up back then about an indie album that no one forced him to listen to, considering the shit that’s gone down since, my guess is sadly, probably not.
This blog post is dedicated to his memory.