The OxStu’s Top Ten Arctic Monkeys Tracks

Life

After a summer of being spoiled by brilliant new Arctic Monkeys singles, it’s safe to say that anticipation for the band’s upcoming album AM is at fever pitch. We’re going to have to wait till the 9th to get our hands on it, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean we can’t sit around all day long and listen to the best stuff that Alex Turner and the boys have already put out. It also doesn’t mean we can’t make ridiculously subjective top ten lists and impose our opinions on people who probably already know the group’s music back to front. For those who don’t, though, and for those who fancy refreshing their memory in time for what is looking to be a seriously good new album, here it is: the OxStu‘s Top Ten Arctic Monkeys tracks.

‘Dancing Shoes’ – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

Like many of the songs from the Arctic Monkeys’ first album, ‘Dancing Shoes’ is about the nature of people in clubs. In particular, how people are always trying to pull on a night out, however much they try to mask it. Along with riffs to make Franz Ferdinand proud, this track is boisterous, wild and bloody proud of it. Sung with a Sheffield drawl and played as if with hammers not plectrums, ‘Dancing Shoes’ is a prime example of the catchy pop tracks which thrusted the ‘Monkeys into stardom.

‘Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts’ – I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor (2005)

The B-side to ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, ‘Bigger Boys’ is easily as good as any of the Monkeys’ first singles and bears all the hallmarks of their early work: a simple, springy riff, a searing guitar solo, and lyrics about the absurd workings of young love. Here, the sardonic social commentary of songs like ‘Dancing Shoes’ is combined with the poignancy of ‘Mardy Bum’, as Turner consoles a friend despondent over his girlfriend leaving him for an arsehole. It may be a million miles from the band’s more sophisticated recent work, but it’s all the more charming for it.

‘Cornerstone’ – Humbug (2009)

Across a swaying backdrop of chiming guitars and a meandering bass line, ‘Cornerstone’ is a bittersweet track about a desperate search for an elusive girl late at night. But, in moving between quirkily named bars the protagonist is only to find lookalikes and cruel reminders, facing rejection at every turn until his target’s sister accepts him. ‘Cornerstone’ is a track written with finesse and character. A highpoint from Humbug, the pealing guitars and suitably retro references to ‘letraset’ make this a tremendous song from a sometimes underrated album.

‘This House is a Circus’ – Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)

With a sound and rhythm which seems at every turn to be a nod to the Two Tone sound of The Specials, ‘This House is a Circus’ is raucous and rowdy, frantic and yet focussed. The lyrics are both a respectful dedication and a warning against the excesses and hedonism of teenage house parties. Poignant for any who grew up in the Skins generation, it’s hard not to get riled by the lightning drumming and stabbing guitars. This is an absolutely blazing track.

‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

‘Dancefloor’ is to the Arctic Monkeys what ‘This Charming Man’ is to The Smiths and ‘Hey Ya’ is to Outkast: the universally-loved, radio-friendly smash that the group’s aficionados would like to say isn’t their favourite, but which really is; one of those songs that you’ve heard about a billion times and which you’d expect would by now have lost all appeal, but which somehow hasn’t. There probably isn’t another song in the Monkeys catalogue as gleeful, or that better encapsulates the energy the group had when they started out. There certainly isn’t another more likely to pack out a dancefloor.

‘Despair in the Departure Lounge’ – Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? (2006)

A lesser-known track from the band’s early EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?, ‘Despair in the Departure Lounge’ is a perennial favourite among Monkeys nerds and perhaps the group’s best ballad. Alex Turner has rarely sounded as bittersweet as he does in this chronicle of lovesickness on tour, and the jangly guitar line – starkly unaccompanied – gives the song a wistful, haunting air that sounds unlike anything the group has done since. If nothing else it’s proof that Turner wrote better love songs before he started getting all cryptic on us.

‘Do I Wanna Know?’ – AM (2013)

Okay, so it was only released three months ago, but it’s a safe bet that ‘Do I Wanna Know’ will stand the test of time as one of the best songs the Arctic Monkeys ever make; at the very least it’s got to be the sexiest. You’d need to have been living under a rock this summer not to have heard it somewhere, whether through watching the band open with it at Glastonbury, hearing it on your friend’s iPod speakers at a party, or, you know, going on the internet at some point. It’s sharp, it’s classy, it’s damn near arousing, and it’s a strong indicator that AM is going to be a huge album.

‘Do Me a Favour’ – Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)

The emotional high-point of second album Favourite Worst Nightmare, this teary-eyed epic was the triumphant consummation of Alex Turner’s powers as a writer of truly potent love songs. The defensive wit of the group’s first releases is absent here, as is the cocky swagger of their later ones; nothing else in their catalogue feels as honest or open. Heartbroken lyrics aside, the blistering crescendo that the guitar and drums reach at the end of the song make it brilliant, if not casual, listening.

‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ – Suck it and See (2011)

‘Don’t Sit Down…’ is Alex Turner’s unashamed dabbling in grunge music. The riffs are thunderous, the bass heavy as lead and with a slight swagger which gives this track an un-ignorable catchy air. You have to admit that the lyrics are as meaningless as a prog-rock track from the late 70s, but what they lack in coherence, they make up for in fun. When you have Turner warning you not to “go into business with a grizzly bear” and “do the Macarena in the devil’s lair”, you know you’re in for a good time.

‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’ – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)

In an album composed nearly entirely of songs about going clubbing, this has to be the best song about going clubbing ever made. Turner lays out in brilliant detail the night out that we all know far too well, from the ill-advised argument with the bouncer on the door to the post-game analysis the morning after, and all to the sound of some of the group’s most propulsive and inventive instrumentation. Okay so it isn’t exactly Shakespeare; the lyrics are less-than-poetic invocations of less-than-glorious subject matter. The song’s latter half is essentially a list of all the banal thoughts that anyone who’s ever had a hangover will already have had. But those thoughts are never going to sound better than they do here.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: STEVEN ANTHONY HAMMOCK

 

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