All the way back in 2004, when the internet and social media was just beginning to have an impact on our cultural lives, a certain band from Sheffield exploded into view on the back of a huge wave of hype.
They gigged relentlessly, building up a dedicated fanbase, and released demos out into the wild to help stoke the flames. The demo that did the damage was called Beneath The Boardwalk – a CD-R featuring 18 songs that spread the word of the Arctic Monkeys throughout the UK. When fans began sharing and generally hyping the demo on MySpace, Arctic Monkeys became overnight sensations.
By 2005 they were signed by independent record label Domino and the rest, as they say, is history.
The hype that built up around them during those early days should have destroyed them. Many bands have been exposed and ruined by much less focus in recent times, but the Arctic Monkeys proved themselves to be much more than an over-hyped indie band.
Led by frontman Alex Turner’s poetic songwriting and a formidable rhythm section, they have grown into one of the most successful and important bands in the world right now.
Below we’ve identified the best Arctic Monkey’s songs, covering their career so far.
There’s no order to list below – we’re not fans of rating and ranking songs like that – and if you want to chip in then please let us know in the comments what you think are the best Arctic Monkeys songs….
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
The song that began it all – and also revealed the down-to-earth and self-aware attitude that would be essential to the Monkeys’ sustained career as Alex Turner opened the video with a cheeky ‘Don’t believe the hype.’
This is still their biggest hit to date – testament to just how big the hype was back then – and is still guaranteed to fill the dancefloor at indie discos up and down the country.
A Certain Romance
A lot of the focus in the early days was about Alex Turner’s real-life, ‘street poet’ lyrics – all ‘mardy bums’ and ‘scummy’ men – but A Certain Romance also showcased his ability to capture more complex emotions like growing up and making new friends.
Arctic Monkeys quickly followed up their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not with their second LP Favourite Worst Nightmare just a year later. It showcased an eagerness to experiment in the studio, with producer James Ford leading the band to more diverse sounds than tinny electric guitars. Album highlight Fluorescent Adolescent mixes ska-infused rhythms with a hurdy-gurdy guitar line to great effect.
A song only Alex Turner could write, about the long drawn-out recovery from a failed relationship which features the protagonist desperately searching town for his former flame. ‘Cornerstone’ is the name of a therapy centre in Sheffield, and as the song progresses it’s clear that he is driving himself mad thinking about his lost love: “Tell me where’s your hiding place / I’m worried I’ll forget your face / And I’ve asked everyone | I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along…”
The very best line features Turner purposefully staying in a car/taxi longer than he should, purely because he can smell his ex’s perfume in the car: “I elongated my lift home / Yeah, I let him go the long way round / I smelt your scent on the seatbelt / And kept my shortcuts to myself”
The first single taken from their third album Humbug was the first time we heard the new, muscular, ‘rock’ version of Arctic Monkeys. Influenced by friend and co-producer Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age, Crying Lightning showcased a dirtier, groovier Monkeys with lyrics that began to get a bit nastier, with Turner becoming increasingly contemptible of the mind games between him and his partner (Crying Lightning refers to the mascara running down a girls face when she’s crying).
Another song that proved Arctic Monkeys were special, 505 unfolds patiently and deliberately as it builds up the tension. Turner is at his most vulnerable and open here, especially at the culmination “But I crumble completely when you cry” before the rest of the band clatter into view.
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
Just like Cornerstone, this is a song that only Arctic Monkeys could make. It’s an ominous track that bludgeons the first-time listener with a sounds they simply were not expecting from the Arctic Monkeys and it completed their Josh Homme-inspired conversion to full-on stoner rock.
The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
Fourth album Suck It And See is seen as probably their least cohesive, but it has more than its fair share of highlights – particularly this. If anything, it showed Turner’s growing maturity as a lyricist: “I took the batteries out my mysticism / And put them in my thinking cap” as well as the growing musicianship of the band.
What have we missed? Let us know your favourite Arctic Monkeys songs in the comments below…