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Put yourself in the shoes of somebody who hasn't heard anything about Arctic Monkeys before placing this shiny disc in your stereo. Imagine, as unlikely as it is, that you didn't download it weeks ago. Even, and I know this is pushing it, pretend that you've not got sick of being told that they're the future of music.
Failing that, jump into the nearest time machine, set the dial for 'one year ago' and hold on tight. Soon enough you'll be stood outside The Room, a tiny Sheffield venue, waiting to see highly regarded newcomer Tom Vek play a gig. Venture inside and watch, jaw on the floor, as you see a teenage four-piece from High Green tear the place apart. Unsigned and with no ambition to do anything other than put out a record, this is how I'll always choose to remember the 'Monkeys once the inevitable happens and they 'do an Oasis'.
Fast forward to 2006 and their debut album is voted the fifth best British record of all time by NME ahead of 'OK Computer', 'Rubber Soul' and 'What's The Story...' Such an accolade has to be taken with a fistful of salt, but it proves how much things can change in a year. Some things don't, though. The venues may have increased in size but the song remains the same. Arctic Monkeys have an innate ability to soundtrack life in the noughties and it's this, not clever marketing or the internet, that has taken them to the summit of popular music.
These are songs that anyone can relate to, and they're as catchy as hell to boot. It's a simple formula in theory, but to execute it with this much vim and vigour is something most bands struggle to do in their entire career. Ever been out to a club and stood at the side afraid to make the first move? Do you disapprove of some of the things your friends do? Does your girlfriend get annoyed with you sometimes? If you can answer 'no' to all three of these questions, you're an alien. In some ways it'd make the task of reviewing this album much easier because MTV hasn't yet worked out how to transmit to Mars, but back here on earth this is a record that deals in the currency of life.
That in itself would be a bit boring. I mean, who really wants to hear about the monotony of a full-time job or failing to pull when they can experience these things at first hand by getting out of bed? Not me. What I do want to hear is somebody who can describe these phenomena with a wit that wouldn't be out of place in a stand-up show. Step forward Alex Turner, and the cast of characters he conjures up. The girl with the fake tan who you'd still be happy to wake up with after a few pints ('Still Take You Home'), the indie types who wear hats indoors ('Fake Tales Of San Francisco') and the frustrated guy / angry girlfriend combo ('Mardy Bum') are all painfully familiar, but as with all good humour it's the way he delivers them.
So why put this album on and not a Ricky Gervais DVD? Because Gervais, despite the episode of 'The Office' where his guitar makes an appearance, doesn't produce an unashamedly melodic, punk-funk indie-pop racket, and the 'Monkeys do. They certainly don't hang around: with 13 songs in 40 minutes, the pace is breakneck from the outset and the only lull comes with the plaintive 'Riot Van'. Turbo charged guitar and a voluptuous rhythm section makes for a full dancefloor, and whether you look good on it or not that's where you're likely to be when you hear the majority of these tunes.
That has to be the main criteria for judging an album like this, and 'Whatever People Say I Am...' may not make you ponder the finer points of existentialism but it certainly has the ability to brighten even the dreariest of days. First and foremost it's a pop record, and it doesn't have to be big or clever as long as it makes a connection. When it comes to doing that, the 'Monkeys are better than Nokia. The album may have been sat on your computer for weeks, you're almost certainly sick of hearing about their rags to riches story (which, for once, happens to be true) and while Arctic Monkeys may not be the future of music, they're still a mighty fine present.
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