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ARTIC MONKEYS - Whatever They Say I Am, Thats What I'm Not   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 21 February 2006
….yeah, it’s been out ages, but who cares? The biggest selling British album of the year (at one point outselling the rest of the top 20 combined), The Artic Monkeys debut proves not very much really… apart from that the Music Industry – and Music itself – is dead.


Firstly, it’s obvious that the conventional Music Industry Model is dead and buried. The idea of selling music in the usual way – overpriced singles, paranoid rambling about copying and Filesharing, and ‘controversial’ headlines – is redundant. Dead. The last embers of a deservedly extinct dinosaur. The Artic Monkeys proved this, if nothing else.


Instead of the usual patronising rubbish from the industry, the Monkeys just said “Fuck that” and gave away the songs. They figured, quite rightly, that people like to buy music and like to buy CD’s – a 7” single or a CD is a work of art in the way that an MP3 will NEVER capture. An mp3 isn’t art. It’s a generic piece of product, in much the same way as sausages. So they gave away the music – like Nick O’Teen outside the school gates. And now some people are hooked for life.


But their debut isn’t all that really. Maybe it’s part of the Monkey’s charm that every song is about wanting to pull someone you see in a nightclub whilst being sung by someone who sounds like he’s the bassist in The Ruts. I’m not sure. If it is, it doesn’t really charm me. Lyrically, the album is slight – wordplay, concepts, ideas, rhymes – all these things are executed with extreme prejudice in favour of a roll call of the prosaic. You won’t find a word longer than two syllables in the whole damn thing : apart from when he says “I’m talking gibberish” on the provinicial, small "You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Looking Straight At Me’" Which sounds like a rejected Morrissey song title – if Morrissey cruised for sex at indie nightclubs.


Maybe then it’s the war against intelligence, the deification of the dumb, that’s seen the charts hijacked by idiot savants. Is that their charm? The comfort in the simple? I can’t get it. Maybe I’m a snob. Or it could be I’m smart. It could be I want more than in the music I love than simple musical thrashes and lyrical graffitti. It’s not a crime to want more.


Musically, each song sounds like a quick, dirty punk wank. The longest song – by far - is under 5 minutes long, and three quarters of the songs average 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Brevity is not always a good thing : even though some of the best Smiths songs was 2.09, 2.16 and 2.29 in length, some of their other best songs were 6.43, 7.09, and 6.42 as well. In the time it would take The Smiths to pen “The Queen Is Dead”, The Artic Monkeys would probably have written three songs and had a quick shufty with the bird that was on the dancefloor. (This is not a recommendation for casual sex in the multiplex, by the way)


And so, after some 30-odd minutes,Whatever They Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not stops. There’s no sense of drama, no sense of wow, just the sudden full stop to an album that at best can be described as having the literacy of a gas bill and the musical invention of an old black & white television. There’s more to music than this. You may look good on the dancefloor, but looks aren’t everything.


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