Released April 23rd 2007. Review originally published April 25th 2007.
The biggest statement Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not made wasn’t in it’s commercial success – once you get enough critical momentum going the non-music fans will buy you to be part of the crowd anyway, regardless of whether they like you or not – nor was it the pungent stench of class tourism, as voyeuristic suburbanites from Look Again’s para-royalty ran scuttling for their maps and Oxford contemporaries went to look up what mardy meant. It wasn’t even being the first band to be spun out of the then nascent cyber marketing tool MySpace, a coup which left record industry execs salivating at the low cost promotional possibilities.
No. Alex Tuner’s streetwise, cocksure triumph was that of evocation; slamming listeners into a world of nylon trackies, dogshit and concrete, the words middle class clever, his acerbic screen grabs of the viscerality of millions of people’s real lives bringing the fuzz of existence in the gap between working proper and jobbing, school and ASBO’s and the feeling of being better off permanently anaesthetised into a relief so sharp it was like a one band manifesto. The problem, if there was one, was that the musical skeleton to all the lyrical and vocal gymnastics – all post punk garage chops and dry wasted funk – was like a loony brother that wouldn’t be told, couldn’t be changed. Silently (To not risk being Instant Messaged to death) the sceptics thought that another dose might just kill us, so when barely 15 months later the spokespeople of a generation announced they were ready to lounge round the street corners of our consciousness again, cynics from Rotherham and the wider sit back and entertain me world were ready to be underwhelmed.
If the Kaisers went pop and the Killers went trad in an attempt to clear out an address in between you and them, how does an outfit with no natural predators handle their difficult second stanza? The answer is that having made a brief career out of defying convention, they went straight to their Queen Is Dead, shifting songwriting gears and mangling expectations, belligerently kicking back against the pressure by reporting in with a collection of swaggering diversity.
Of course it’s better. Where the character pieces last time were incomplete, the creations of a kid at school using potato shape cut outs, here the cast are fully formed and desperate, goggle eyed and dying for it. Opener Brianstorm introduces us to weirdo #1, a wisecracking a-list busting Japaratchik announced by skittering guitars and damned to playground eternity with the catcall byline “See you later, innovator”. Next up it’s the even more lascivious rough of Teddy Picker, a funky grinding sexed up doghouse to be in, ready to pop it out and do the wild thing with your trembling leg. Sure, there’s enough as you were/not fookin’ broke so don’t fix it familiarity (D is for Dangerous, Balaclava) with Jamie Cook’s riffs chopping whole chunks right off. But the epiphany comes with Fluorescent Adolescent; the link between then and now, our subject harking back to the illicit not mr right/mr right now tram stop kneetremblers of Whatever People Say I Am..but now having to make do with not-tonight-love suburban impotence, blessed with the magic refrain “Oh the boys a slag, the best you ever had”.
Unimpeachable credibility now re-established, Turner goes for broke, clobbering a reverbed ballad on Only One Who Knows (Earthquakes in China?) and then whipping out a stunningly dark Pulp Fiction-esque surf rock break-up catalogue on Do Me A Favour, going all Meg and Jack at the end with Tarantino’s best South Yorkshire kiss off..”P’raps fuck off might be too kind.”
After that it’s all uphill, This House Is A Circus pounds chaotically towards a jaw dropping sub metal climax, If You Were There, Beware, is a sprawling full on piano and fx monster chase complete with a coven of indolent witches and without a breath there’s yet another gear shift to Do The Bad Thing, redolent of the afore-fingered Smiths effortless majesty and wrapped in Morrissey’s sexual contrivances, whilst the quiet-loud climactic garage closer 505 is so far away from the original premise you dreamt for them that’s it’s almost impossible to conceive of the debut and successor albums as being beamed from the same phone.
Knowing that we thought he couldn’t take the original limited format and stretch it, Turner has shed the itchy awkwardness and now he knows he’s proving the Monkeys’ unshakeable real band status in front of you; he waits like a bouncing teenager waving you inwards, a sink estate Shaolin, our Brucie Lee on Cider, cheap speed and the buzz of pissing on the garden of your preconceptions. And as a result there isn’t a critical voice left to confound in popular culture today: dissention is not an option. As much as their first album didn’t deserve classic status, Favourite Worst Nightmare was the new best mate you’d never had.