Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 20 Best Albums of 2007 - Arctic Monkeys: "Favourite Worst Nightmare"

17.  There's nothing more annoying in music journalism than reading the British music press. NME, Q and Mojo love to proclaim a certain band/artist as "the next big thing" one day and then step over each over trying to tear them down the next. Much like our tabloids build up the Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohans of the world just to make their inevitable falls from grace that much more dramatic (and therefore, lucrative), the Brits have turned this cynical cycle into an artform, making it easy for people like me to ignore them altogether. It is for this reason that I dismissed Arctic Monkeys for over a year before I ever gave them a chance.

As is usually the case, it took seeing them in person to finally sift through the bullshit and just listen to the music before I understood what all the fuss was about. Now, they may not be the most dynamic band in the world (Radiohead they are not), but they do have stage presence and they certainly are well skilled in the art of a good 'ol fashioned guitar hook. On Favourite Worst Nightmare there are hooks-a-plenty mixed with heavy rhythms and storytelling lyrics about working-class night owls and romances. Basically, a simple meat-and-potatoes approach to rock music that most bands fail miserably at trying to pull off.

I guess that's what makes this sophomore effort from Arctic Monkeys so rewarding. After an avalanche of hype and accolades following their debut album they weren't tempted to overreach on the follow-up. Instead, they built on their solid foundation by sharpening their skills a bit and adding an extra layer of attitude to their sound. There's still plenty of time left before this act begins to turn stale, so it's nice to see a band resist temptation to reinvent the wheel well before they are ready to do so. In the meantime, we can reward them for crafting an album that exhibits there's still some life left in the tired and true "three chords and the truth" approach to rock music.

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