Formed in 2002, Sheffield four-piece Arctic Monkeys are undoubtedly one of the biggest bands to come out the UK in the last 15 years. Led by frontman Alex Turner (lead vocals/guitar) the band shot to fame in 2006 with their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which became the fast selling debut album of all time.
Signed to Domino Records, the band currently have five studio albums to their name. Our writers have got together to rank them in order of greatness from worst to best. Let us know your favourite below!
5. Suck It And See
Kicking off our poll is Suck It And See, Arctic Monkeys’ fourth studio album. By no means a poor album, Suck It And See was pretty much unanimously ranked in last position by our writers. It’s probably fair to say that it was released at a time when the band’s popularity had hit a bit of a lull (by their standards, anyway). The album’s predecessor, Humbug, saw the band change their sound significantly – a darker sounding Arctic Monkeys that saw them move away from the poppy hooks of their first two LPs.
As with all the Northerner’s albums, it debuted at number 1 in the UK, but significantly saw the lowest first week sales for the band. That being said, it still received critical acclaim across the board with Pitchfork calling it the band’s “most rewarding album so far” and The Guardian stating that they sounded like “an increasingly well-rounded rock band“. Ultimately Suck It And See would, for any ordinary band, feature much higher than it does here. But the boys from Sheffield are no ordinary band.
Stand out track: The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala
Released : 2011
With Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme at the helm of production duties along with James Ford, Humbug was a significant period in the evolution of Arctic Monkeys’ sound. While it saw the band lose some of their fanbase as the record sales indicate, its influence (and Homme’s) on what was to come from the band cannot be understated.
As previously stated, Humbug saw the band move to a new, darker sound – one far removed from their first two albums. The guidance of The Queens Of The Stone Age songwriter brought Arctic Monkeys in tune with their psychedelic side and came at a time when Alex Turner was stepping out of his comfort zone as a songwriter. In between Monkeys’ albums two and three was the debut album from The Last Shadow Puppets, the side project of Turner and best friend Miles Kane, and it was clear that the frontman was growing in his craft. Humbug is something of a turning point for the band and set them on their way as a more mature, rounded machine.
Stand out track: Cornerstone
3. Favourite Worst Nightmare
Favourite Worst Nightmare was released as the band were riding the crest of a wave in 2007. Coming hot on the heels a year after the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK, the band could seemingly do no wrong. As expected, it went straight to number 1 in the UK, while debuting at number 7 in the US, highlighting the progress the band were making across the pond.
While it was bigger and bolder than Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, it perhaps lacked the subtleties and different textures of what was to come from the UK’s hottest new property. Inevitably, the hype got to some critics (shoutout to NME) but the band successfully navigated the ominous task of following up their debut, albeit not reaching the heights of its predecessor. That being said, it does features one of the best songs to be found on any Arctic Monkeys album – “505”.
Stand out track: 505
If Humbug and Suck It And See were key stops on the road to a destination, AM is surely it. And while it was not produced by Josh Homme, his influence is all over it. Dark and moody with a psychedelic aura, it’s a cross-genre masterpiece with elements of hip-hop, classic rock and modern indie guitar pop. As well as Homme’s influence, it fuses the likes of The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Dr Dre.
AM was an undoubted commercial success and achieved the second highest grossing album sales of the band’s career. While it didn’t make it to number 1 in our poll, some of the team did have it top of their list. The album also received rave reviews with The Guardian stating that it was “their most coherent, most satisfying album since their debut,” while NME described it as “the most incredible album of their career.” Pitchfork, meanwhile noted that Arctic Monkeys’ “transformation into something like rock gods is reminiscent of U2’s turnaround circa Achtung Baby.”
High praise indeed, yet AM doesn’t quite make it to the top spot in our poll of Arctic Monkeys best albums…
Stand out track: Arabella
1. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
It’s impossible to understate the impact that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not had upon its release in 2006. The hype around the band in the UK before its release was like nothing that had been seen since Oasis more than 10 years previously, driven by the rise in use of online stream sites, mainly MySpace. Tracks had been distributed through the platform and other online channels and received so much attention that the album was destined to be a success. Quite how big, neither the band, nor their label, Domino, could have imagined.
The album was a juggernaut, becoming the fastest selling debut in British music history. It was the album that defined a generation, with Alex Turner defying his young years as a master wordsmith and storyteller, describing every day incidents in hilarious detail; from scraps at taxi ranks to futile attempts to get into nightclubs, it described perfectly UK youth culture at the time.
The album, featuring songs such as “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” was a breath of fresh air at a time when the UK music scene had gone somewhat stale with a plethora of mundane indie bands. A decade later, it still sounds as fresh as ever and catapulted the Arctic Monkeys into British music folklore.
Stand out track: Fake Tales Of San Francisco