Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.K.'s Arctic Monkeys Try to Win American Fans


If you haven't heard about the band the Arctic Monkeys yet, just wait. Their CD is being released today in the U.S., and many critics are hailing the group as the next big thing.

The Arctic Monkeys have been dominating the British music charts. Their album WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT'S WHAT I'M NOT is the fastest selling debut album ever in Britain.

Here's our reviewer, Chris Nickson.

(Soundbite of Artic Monkeys)

ARCTIC MONKEYS (singing): Got a feeling in my stomach. It's starting to wonder why you so remind me, why you so remind me, of the same (unintelligible) when the sun goes down.

CHRIS NICKSON reporting:

The Artic Monkeys have very cleverly walked in through the back door to their British success. Instead of a head-long assault on the industry, they burned demo CD's to give out at gigs and put music up on their website to create a groundswell of fans. A few years of relentlessly working the grass roots resulted in an instant number one single, the infectious, I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.

ARCTIC MONKEYS (Singing): I wish you'd stop ignoring me, because you're sending me to despair. Without a sound, yeah, you're calling me, and I don't think it's very fair, that your shoulders are frozen. Oh you're an explosion. You're name isn't real but I don't care. Besides I like (unintelligible). I bet that you look good on the dance floor. I don't if you're looking for romance. No I don't know what you're looking for. I said I bet that you look good on the dance floor.

NICKSON: The band's Sheffield home, in the north of England, had its economic guts ripped out when the steel industry died. Songwriter and singer Alex Turner finds poetry in this bleakness and random violence on the CD. And under his cynicism beats a romantic heart. On a certain romance, he writes, "Over there, there's broken bones. There's only music, so that there's new ring tones. And it doesn't take no Sherlock Holmes to see it's a little different around here."

He wears his origins unselfconsciously, using local dialect proudly, as on Maudy Bum, south Yorkshire for moody person.

(Soundbite of Artic Monkeys' Maudy Bum)

ARCTIC MONKEYS (Singing): Well now there, maudy bum, I've seen your frown and it's like looking down the barrel of a gun. And it goes up, and out come these all words. Oh there's a very clever side to you, a side I much prefer. One that laughs and jokes around, remember cuddles in the kitchen, yeah, to get things off the ground. And it was up, up, and away, ah, but it's right hard to remember that on a day like today when you're all argumentative, and you've got that face on.

NICKSON: The Arctic Monkeys songs are camera phone shots of working class life, from its scramble to earn money to its weekend hedonism. One big reason WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT'S WHAT I'M NOT has found such an audience in Britain is that its sound and images resonate with the young. People recognize themselves and their frustrated emotions here.

There's nothing especially original in the Artic Monkeys' music, but they perform it with a swagger, the jagged edges deliberately intact. The jerky restless rhythms are infectious and their choruses soar into the brain. That sound should win American fans. The trick will be whether their shadowed vision of English life can fully cross the Atlantic.

(Soundbite of Artic Monkeys)

ARCTIC MONKEYS (Singing): This town's a different town today. This town's a different town from what it was last night. You couldn't (unintelligible) on a Sunday.

SIEGEL: The band is the Arctic Monkeys, the album is WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT'S WHAT I'M NOT. Our reviewer is Chris Nickson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Chris Nickson