Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Released: January 23, 2006
Peak: 24 US, 14 UK, 16 CN, 11 AU
Sales (in millions): 0.33 US, 1.38 UK, 2.71 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: garage rock revival
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Total Running Time: 40:56
4.112 out of 5.00 (average of 26 ratings)
Quotable: The fastest selling debut in British history.
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
“Breathless, hyperbolic praise was piled upon the Arctic Monkeys and their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I’m Not, an instant phenomenon without peer.” STE “Marrying nervy, caffeine-and-cigarettes indie clatter to conversational, pretense-free lyrics and the occasional burst of off-the-cuff eloquence…it’s an instant, pulse-racing hit.” AZ
“Within the course of a year, the band rose from the ranks of an Internet phenomenon to the biggest band in the U.K., all on the strength of early demos circulated on the Web as MP3s. Those demos built the band a rabid fan base before the Monkeys had released a record, even before they played more than a handful of gigs. In effect, the group performed a complete run around the industry,” STE a move which established the group “as the UK underground’s most proselytizing young preachers of the DIY gospel.” AZ When Whatever People Say I Am hit the streets, it sold 363,735 copies in its first week, selling more than the rest of the Top 20 combined and making it the fastest selling debut in British history. WK
“Last time such excitement surrounded a new British guitar band it was a decade earlier, as Britpop hit overdrive with the release of Oasis’ 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe. All four members of the Arctic Monkeys were a little bit shy of their tenth birthday at the time, a bit young to be sure, but old enough to have Oasis be their first favorite band. So, it’s little surprise that the Gallaghers’ laddism – celebrating nights out fueled by lager and loud guitars – is the bedrock foundation of the Arctic Monkeys, just the way as it has been for most British rock bands since the mid-‘90s.” STE In fact, some have even considered Whatever to be “a concept album concerning the lives of young Northern England clubbers.” WK
Indeed, songs like first single I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Still Take You Home, and You Probably Couldn’t See the Lights But You Were Staring Straight at Me “all examine human behaviour in nightclubs.” WK “From the Ritz to the Rubble is an account of nightclub bouncers, while When the Sun Goes Down was inspired by prostitutes…in the Neepsend district of Sheffield.” WK
“Look beyond the Arctics’ bristly, laddish exterior, however, because it’s actually affairs of the heart that comprise this album’s secret core: see the sweaty-palmed Dancing Shoes, bearing testament to the trial of nerves that is pulling in a suburban indie nightclub, or Mardy Bum – a tribute to a moody girlfriend that, for all its witty barbs (‘I’ve seen your frown and it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun’), is tinted with sweet affection.” LP
Also, “the Monkeys’ true musical ground zero is 2001, the year the Strokes stormed British consciousness with their debut, Is This It. The Arctic Monkeys borrow heavily from the Strokes’ stylized ennui, adding an equal element of the Libertines’ shambolic neo-classicist punk, undercut by a hint of dance-punk learned from Franz Ferdinand.” STE
“The opening The View from the Afternoon predicts a ruckus with a whole lot more grit than the Kaisers can muster, while on the mellow Riot Van, a tale of underage drinking and cop-baiting culminates in a messy beating in the back of a station wagon.” LP
Whatever captures the band “jamming in too many angular riffs into too short of a space, tearing through the songs as quickly as possible. But where the Strokes camouflaged their songwriting skills with a laconic, take-it-or-leave-it sexiness and where the Libertines mythologized England with a junkie poeticism, the Arctic Monkeys at their heart are simple, everyday lads, lacking any sense of sex appeal or romanticism, or even the desire for either.” STE “Lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner tells stories from their lives – mainly hookups on the dancefloor and underage drinking, balanced by the occasional imagined tragic tales of prostitution and the music industry.” STE
However, “the band doesn't soar with youthful abandon, it merely raises a bit of noise in the background.” STE Whatever sports a “dry production, sounding for all the world like an homage to Is This It – all clanking guitars and clattering drums, with most of the energy coming from the group’s sloppy call-and-response backing vocals.” STE
The recycling of not-so-old sounds and styles can leave the Monkeys’ debut “surprisingly predictable” STE but “the one thing that sets them apart, and does give them promise, is Alex Turner’s writerly ambitions.” STE “While his words can be overcooked – allusions to Romeo & Juliet do not necessarily count as depth – he does tell stories, which does distinguish him from his first-person peers. But it's a double-edged sword, his gift: the very thing that sets him apart – his fondness for detail, his sense of place – may be the quality that makes his work resonate for thousands of young Britons, but they also tie him completely to a particular time and place that makes it harder to relate to for listeners who aren’t in his demographic or country (and perhaps time).” STE
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First posted 1/29/2012; updated 8/9/2021.