I'd heard of Arctic Monkeys before I'd actually heard any music by them. They were the hot new thing, a massively hyped band from Sheffield who had just broken the record for the fastest selling debut album of all time. Even then, I didn't rush out to buy their album because, as is often the way, popularity doesn't necessarily equal good music. What actually hooked me was seeing the video for When The Sun Goes Down on a music television channel (at the time it would have either have been M2 or VH1) and being utterly captivated by the narrative, style and energy of the single. I bought the album that day. People were talking about how “real” Arctic Monkeys are and, no matter how much I dislike that term, I could completely understand why that was the word people used to describe them. The fact that Alex Turner sings in his natural accent, delivering, in an almost casual manner, language and lyrics that many young people could easily relate to; indeed, most of the stories are based around clubbing culture and the human interaction that happens on a night out, before, during and after. It's a journey through the Sheffield nightlife, laced with one character after another and, intentional or not, it could certainly be considered to be a concept album.
While When The Sun Goes Down remains my favourite Arctic Monkeys song of all time, there are other strong contenders. I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor is almost a cliché now in indie clubs nationwide, but it's a cliché that nobody seems to tire of hearing and the Arctic Monkeys' debut single, Fake Tales Of San Francisco tells a completely familiar story of muso posers and terrible bands (“Yeah but his bird thinks it's amazing, though/so all that's left/is the proof that love's not only blind but deaf”). The irresistible riff of Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured and Mardy Bum's relatable charm make them both personal favourites. A Certain Romance would be my final pick on the Arctic Monkeys' debut, a light, springy melodic charmer that hints at a further depth to the band's repertoire. The only song I really can't warm to on the whole album is Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But..., and that is purely because I don't think it is on the same level as the rest of the album, musically. Everything else on the record is an integral piece of what makes Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not such a fascinating, brilliant and engaging listen.
I'd love to say that I thought the album was fantastic from the very first listen, but that wasn't the case at all. It was, for me, what is commonly known as a “grower” and songs that had sounded a little samey soon developed their own character and appeal with every subsequent play. A CD which appeared, at first, to be comprised of a few great singles and a lot of filler material gradually revealed itself to be an excellent piece of work with a cohesive narrative from start to finish. The magic of this band is all the elements coming together. The sharpness of the Arctic Monkeys' sound and the tightness of the band are an important part of their huge appeal and it's evident that all four members are superb musicians, but, dark and witty, the lyrics are interspersed with pithy one liners and wry observations and, without their impact, this record wouldn't be half as good as it is. All combined, it's an album that keeps you inadvertently smiling and moving your body throughout and, for a debut, it's nothing less than remarkable.