Their rapid-fire indie assault and post-punk exhumation brought some much-needed musical revitalization into the United States after it proliferated from their home country; creating a rocking movement for millennials everywhere. It also helps that their crushing riffs, well-placed progressions, and irresistible grooves appeal to pretty much every demographic in a truly inclusive way; Everybody from classic rock fiends, typical music connoisseurs, all the way to casual rock listeners.
The Arctic Monkeys came to be in 2002 in the city of Sheffield (South Yorkshire, England) when Alex Turner (vocalist and rhythm guitarist) and Jamie Cook (lead guitarist) were still teenagers; it wasn’t long until they conscripted school friends Andy Nicholson (bassist) and Matt Helper (drummer). Their steady ascent into the commercial latitude of recognition unfolded in 2005 when they released their EP, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys, which featured the songs Fake Tales of San Francisco and From the Ritz to Rubble; later released on their debut.
It’s also worth noting that the EP was pressed on vinyl and CD in a limited quantity of a thousand, so if you find a copy, hold on to it, because it’s worth a pretty penny. Their exponential following also attributed to several live shows at small festivals, but thanks to the wonderful tool of promotion that is the internet, the Arctic Monkeys were now one of the most hyped up, unsigned bands after word of mouth helped their single garner a deluge of downloads on the iTunes Music Store. After playing a gig at the Reading and Leeds festivals, they were soon signed to a major label.
Since then, the Arctic Monkeys have become one of the most celebrated rock acts of the new Millennium who have single-handedly recharged the current state of the genre into an ever-evolving landscape that extends far beyond the convention of hard rock and punk mechanics. So ClassicRockHistory is pleased to introduce another one of these top 10 songs lists.
# 10 – Library Pictures
Their 2011 record, Suck it and See, is a perfect example of the Arctic Monkey’s pop mentality laced in boisterous maturity. Don’t let the album title fool you; it’s actually a British idiom that means to try something before you judge it. A bit of movie trivia here: the term showed up in a scene as graffiti in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film A Clockwork Orange, which may have partially inspired them to come up with the title.
The album is pretty amazing, and Library Pictures is a true standout if you’re looking for a nasty, rude, but fun song with a real Black Sabbath-esque edge to it; seriously, if there’s one thing that should be noted it’s that Alex Turner can squeeze out a heavy riff.
# 9 – If You Were There, Beware
Attempting to create an album that succeeds one as monumental as their debut would be nothing short of sacrilege, but their 2007 effort, Favorite Worst Nightmare, managed to further their dynamics with a broader scope of melodic and lyrical proficiency. The album’s overall tone shifts towards a Smith’s and post-Doolittle Pixies vibe; with more emphasis on storytelling, wordplay, and the willingness to go even harder than their prior work.
If You Were There, Beware is probably the most mercurial song on the album. It kicks off with a dissonant progression that’s both unflattering and killer. Alex’s cryptic and mirthless lyrics lay the groundwork as the song continues its light and foreboding essence. But, in typical Arctic Monkey’s fashion, the song does an unpredictable turnaround and bellows out breakneck intensity that makes this one of their most ambitious compositions.
# 8 – Fire And The Thud
Their 2009 album, Humbug, is perhaps their most experimental; it houses a much more diverse soundscape, and this is all thanks to the album’s producer, Queens of the Stone Age frontman, Josh Hommes. He contributed to their desert rock and psychedelic intricacies, whereas the band decided to add various instruments that were outside of their comfort zone; keyboards, slide guitars, xylophones, glockenspiels, and shakers.
One can definitely hear the mellow, hallucinogenic edginess of Queens of the Stone Age here; one can almost picture themselves riding in a dune-buggy in the middle of a desert’s peyote trip. This song, along with the album as a whole, showed that a band like the Arctic Monkeys could produce something great that was the very antithesis of themselves.
# 7 – R U Mine?
Now here’s a song that rightfully encompasses every rock and roll facet: It’s got the banging riff that leaves you nodding your head furiously to it. The powerhouse drums. The unobtrusive bass-line. The catchy hook. The neatly-placed rhythmic fills. An osmosis of coolness that punctuates the tangibility of the Arctic Monkeys.
It was the first of many singles released off of their most recent album, 2013’s AM; it soon became their highest-charting single in the U.K., despite being a digital-only release. The song was also good enough to be featured in the following video games: Forza Horizon, Rocksmith 2014, and Guitar Hero Live.
# 6 – The Jeweller’s Hand
If you ever wanted any indication that Alex Turner can write some pretty compelling lyrics, this song is an example of such. The Jeweller’s Hand, melody-wise, is their most gloomy, and perhaps even their most mournful. The chord voicing’s incorporated here are some of the best of the band’s career, and the composition as a whole provides a template that illustrates the psyche of a band hellbent on not falling victim to a particular label.
# 5 – 505
Here’s more movie nerd trivia, courtesy of yours truly. The organ progression at the very beginning of 505 was taken directly from Ennio Morricone’s music score from the classic Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; starring the very awesome Clint Eastwood and directed by the superlative Sergio Leone. It was the instrumental piece that plays at the very end when Angel Eyes approaches the Man With No Name and Tuco before their iconic standoff.
It’s the type of song that you’d hear inside the faded dream of a deserted town, but don’t let that surreal description detract you from giving it four minutes of your time; it’s really a beautiful song that can take you places from out of this world.
# 4 – I Wanna Be Yours
Alex Turner described their latest album, AM, as a “Dr. Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster;” this is a wonderful representation of such an album. AM showcased a different personality for the band. It’s one of the best albums of 2013, mainly due in part because of the countless different musical styles that are present; it’s an accelerated aggregation of hard rock, soul, funk, hip hop, and blues.
The final song on the record, I Wanna Be Yours, is the perfect closer. It’s laced with heartache and a mesmerizing beat that keeps you coming back for more with each listen.
# 3 – All My Own Stunts
This has to be the best song off of Suck It and See. It’s incredibly loud and wonderfully harmonious. Its swagger just oozes with radioactive plasma straight from the cranked-up amplifiers that fire off waves of spiraling licks and pulse-pounding power chords. And can we just take the time to single out Turner’s tasty vocals? His unctuous and confident persona just makes everything he sings so captivating.
# 2 – Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…
It’s about time we start naming off tracks from their incredible debut album. Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But… doesn’t just harbor a wickedly fantastic title; it delivers everything you’d come to expect of a recording with such a heading. For anybody who says a band like the Arctic Monkeys can’t make aggressive rock music, redirect them to this very song. The way it casually pushes itself in your face and disintegrates the ears and mind with capricious angst and proto-punk flirtation is more than enough reasons to be at the number two spot on this list.
# 1 – A Certain Romance
And so we end this list with the very song that ended their incredible debut album. Seriously, a flood of praise simply wouldn’t do this album enough justice; I believe a future album review would be arranged to properly dissect every unit of this masterful work of art. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not marked an era for a new subset of bands looking to bring back the true spirit of rock and roll during a time where garbage was being churned out for the masses.
A Certain Romance is quite the grand finale; it’s wistful joviality makes one feel at peace with themselves, while at the same time moving to the rhythm. This song is the beating heart of the Arctic Monkeys. Every intrinsic detail about it sums up what this band is beloved for. And even if you don’t care for their music, you have to at least respect a song like this.
10 Best Arctic Monkeys Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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