Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hey hey, it's the Monkeys

Yesterday saw the release of the first album by young Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys. I popped into Fopp on Division Street to pick it up, along with the new Will Oldham/Tortoise album. The shop was the busiest I've seen it, and the guy on the till reckoned four out of five were buying the Monkeys. The Virgin store down on Fargate was also heaving.

Fair enough in the band's hometown, but reports today reckon it's set to be the fastest-selling debut album ever. Phil Penman, head of music at HMV: "It's remarkable how, in just a few months, the Arctic Monkeys have gone from being a cool local band promoted by their fans via the internet to a superstar act connecting with the wider record-buying public."

It is a good album and they are a good - potentially great - band. Lyrically, it's smart, funny, observational and specific in its language and subjects. Not quite up there yet with Pulp (or even maybe Relaxed Muscle), but immensely better than the homogeneous platitudes of the likes of Coldplay. Musically, pretty generic but raucous enough - the kind of thing the likes of the Frank & Walters used to knock out, and unchallenging enough for the Indie Dads to buy for the car (David Cameron will be seen with a copy, I predict).

So if they're basically the Fat Truckers with guitars, why the commercial success? Contrary to the received wisom, talent will not always out. Media hype must be a big part of it, particularly with the MP3-swapping-interweb angle that seemed to amaze traditional hacks. The band built up a dedicated fanbase through gigging and the net, but if that's all it took then They Came From The Stars would be number one (they might yet, of course, but it's taking them a long time to be overnight successes). Maybe also that early cultish success created something that the mainstream decided it wants to buy into, mediated by snowballing word-of-mouth until it reaches its cultural critical mass - but basically it's a matter of fashion, however you might want to dress it up in 'Tipping Point' buzzwords.

Anyway, blether aside, good work to the band, and don't let the glory turn you into wankers like Oasis.



Blogger Tim Chapman said...

Further to the prediction above, this from the Guardian diary, 1/3/06:

Hard, really, to imagine a better way for Darling Dave Cameron to spend his first day back from paternity leave than by chatting to a bevy of young mums on the internet about unequal pay, exorbitant childcare, unlawful banning of public breastfeeding and other key (and, we feel bound to point out, relatively recent) areas of Conservative concern. But while media attention on this inspired, if barefaced, piece of PR puffery has focused on Dave's controversial demand for the NHS to give single MMR jabs when parents want, not to mention his dodgy preference for disposables over reusables, we feel valuable material has been unjustly overlooked. Dave admits, for example, to not listening to Abba "for a while" (far too 70s), but to rather liking The Winner Takes It All (geddit?). The West Wing is "a great programme" (not, note, where we keep the antiques), and his favourite character would be President Bartlett, only people "will think I'm a megalomaniac" (smart, no?). And while he has, he promises, bought the Arctic Monkeys (can't ignore first-time voters), he's still a big Coldplay fan (and so in tune with the melodies of middle England). The Diary's verdict? Content: bland. Technique: brilliant.

9:20 am, March 02, 2006  

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