From The New York Times
.Teen Spirit: Arctic Monkeys Observed in the Wild
By KELEFA SANNEH
GLASGOW, Jan. 29 — He is one of the biggest rock stars in Britain, leader of one of the most exciting bands on the planet. He just turned 20. And on Friday night he could be found in a grotty little room in Glasgow, talking about his grandfather.
He is Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys, a scrappy and brilliant group from Yorkshire that is currently awash in hyperbolic praise. The debut Arctic Monkeys album, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" (Domino), has been instantly — and accurately — hailed as a modern classic, even though it was only released a week ago. The British music magazine NME ranked it at No. 5 on a recent list of the greatest British albums ever. It sold over 360,000 copies in the last week, making it the fastest-selling debut album in British history.
But despite this whirlwind, Mr. Turner seemed unusually self-aware but not at all worried as he sat backstage at the Carling Academy Glasgow before playing yet another sold-out show.
"My granddad said to me, 'I think you've overdoon it,' " he said, acknowledging with his Yorkshire pronunciation the huge fuss about the little band. "And I said, 'I think you're right.' "
Hype isn't really the right word to describe the Arctic Monkeys phenomenon, which began with sold-out local gigs and homemade CD's passed from old fans to new ones. Record executives struggled to keep up; Domino Records eventually signed the band and released a single, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," which topped the British charts. The follow-up single, "When the Sun Goes Down," also went to No. 1.
If only the music weren't so thrilling, there would probably be a serious backlash afoot. The Arctic Monkeys specialize in tidy but anthemic little postpunk songs, propelled by bursts of guitar chords and constant zigzags. In "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," the band hurtles through three different riffs — all utterly infectious — in the 30 seconds before Mr. Turner lets loose his thin voice and thick accent.
Then he does, and the song gets even better. Mr. Turner's lyrics are worth waiting for and often worth memorizing, too. He delivers pithy, unpretentious descriptions of a teenage world defined by daydreams and nightlife. And he has an uncanny way of evoking Northern English youth culture while neither romanticizing it nor sneering at it.
One song, "From the Ritz to the Rubble," begins in the middle of a run-on sentence that captures the ordinary desperate experience of trying to get into a nightclub. During Friday's concert, thousands of sweaty Scottish teenagers chanted the first lines (and all the rest) right along with the band: Last night these two bouncers
And one of 'em's all right
The other one's a scary 'un
His way or no way, totalitarian
He's got no time for you
Looking or breathing
How he don't want you to
So step out the queue
He makes examples of you
And there's naught you can say
Behind they go through to the bit where you pay
And you realize then that it's finally the time
To walk back past 10,000 eyes in the line
As the song builds to a grand climax, the story dissolves, the way wasted nights usually do. There's a threat of violence, but our protagonists never make it inside the club, and eventually anger melts into bemusement: "Last night, what we talked about, it made so much sense/ But now the haze has ascended, it don't make no sense anymore."
With all those red-faced kids singing along, Mr. Turner's ambivalent refrain sounded like a generation's rallying cry.
Maybe it is. (And maybe his granddad was right.) Unlike virtually all of the postpunk bands that have transfixed Britain over the last few years, from the Strokes to the Libertines to Franz Ferdinand to the White Stripes, the Arctic Monkeys don't obsess over rock 'n' roll history, and they aren't nostalgic for an earlier musical era. They have borrowed from all those bands, but they have also done what era-defining bands are supposed to do: they have made all their predecessors seem — and sound — old.
Part of that, of course, is the band's actual youth. They're young enough to have grown up around so-called chavs — white working-class stock characters, ridiculed for their gaudy track suits and hard-partying lifestyle, and known for loutish behavior and conspicuous consumption. (Of alcohol, among other things.) The Arctic Monkeys songs contain a few jokes about chavism, and one mentions that most chavish of accessories: the Burberry baseball cap. But there's something generous about Mr. Turner's lyrics; he always stops short of condemnation. You can hear real affection when he sings, sighingly, about the local hooligans, in a tender two-minute ballad called "Riot Van": "These lads just wind the coppers oop/ They ask why they don't catch proper crooks/ They get their address and their names took/ But they couldn't care less."
Lyrics like these — delivered with a rapper's precision — are one reason Mr. Turner has begun to be described, in Britain at least, as the voice of a generation. Even though he only wanted to be the voice of a band.
"You have a song, and it drops, and it means all this other stuff all of a sudden," he said backstage at the Carling Academy. He couldn't quite explain why he has struck a chord among the country's pimply (and, for that matter, no-longer-pimply) masses. And he couldn't help but feel skeptical when people talk about how the band unites chavs and indie kids, the university-bound and the dole-bound. "I don't think it's half as tribal as people make it out," he said.
In Britain, the Arctic Monkeys' immediate future isn't in doubt: the band's debut CD will keep selling; the sell-out concerts will keep coming; the media coverage will only get more intense and more surreal. (A recent article in The Guardian reported on speculation that Mr. Turner doesn't write his own lyrics; the main evidence, it seemed, was that they are simply too good.) In the United States, though, the band's future is harder to predict. The album is due out from the independent label's American branch, Domino US, on Feb. 21; it is to be distributed through a new deal with the Alternative Distribution Alliance, a subsidiary of the Warner Music Group. Domino has had huge success over the last few years with Franz Ferdinand, whose albums have been marketed and distributed in partnership with SonyBMG.
There is no guarantee that the Arctic Monkeys will sell like Franz Ferdinand. And there is no telling whether American listeners and rock radio stations will embrace — or, for that matter, understand — their slangy tales of taxi rides and street crime and sulking girlfriends. If the Arctic Monkeys remained a British juggernaut but an American cult band, they wouldn't be the first. And it wouldn't really matter. You probably won't hear a better CD all year long.
Back at the Carling Academy, the Arctic Monkeys stormed through their triumphant set, with fans singing along not just to the lyrics but to the guitar lines, too. After "Fake Tales of San Francisco" was finished, the crowd kept shouting the words, which take aim at the indie-rock industry. The acerbic chorus was reborn as an exuberant soccer chant: "Get off the bandwagon/ And put down the handbook!/ Get off the bandwagon/And put down the handbook!"
The set ended the same way the album does: with a grand version of "A Certain Romance." Mr. Turner sang, "The point's that there in't no romance around there," But this isn't a protest song. If anything, it's an acceptance song: an ode to a youth culture that will always seem to be in decline — an ode to all those indefensible, irreplaceable wasted nights: Well over there, there's friends of mine
What can I say? I've known them for a long, long time
And they might overstep the line
But you just cannot get angry in the same way.
Another singer might make these louts the enemies, or the heroes. But Mr. Turner isn't sentimental enough to do either. After all, everyone overdoos it from time to time. (Especially pop critics.) And if you're a clear-headed 20-year-old from Yorkshire, all you can do is shrug.