Saturday Afternoon Artist: The Arctic Monkeys

In 2001, in Sheffield, England, neighbors Alex Turner and Jamie Cook each got a guitar for Christmas.  Two other friends, Andy Nicholson on bass and Matt Helders on drums started jamming with them. The four of them played gigs for fun in their hometown in 2003. Made some home-burned demos and gave them to fans.  One of the Arctic Monkeys fans put the music on the internet, up on MySpace.  The songs went viral, and they were one of the first bands to get a huge following with songs only posted on the web and not available for sale.

Their first real release was called Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys — it helped the young band pull in  really big crowds at mostly small stages at British music festivals. And in 2005, the Arctic Monkeys got their first #1 hit in the UK, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.”

Because the Arctic Monkeys already had a huge fan base on the internet, when they put their first full length record, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, out in 2006, it became the fastest selling debut album in U.K rock history! This is by far still their best release, especially if you can get the version that was put out first by the band themselves, before it was remastered by the label who reissued it.  This song, “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” is the Arctic Monkeys at their best. With a go-go feel that’s present in the best danceable rock-n-roll and lyrics that make you think, they take you to a setting as part of a story.

After the 2006 tour, bassist Andy left the group (saying he was exhausted) and Nick O’Malley took over on bass. In April of 2007 their second record, Favourite Worst Nightmare, hit both the UK and US charts.  Unfortunately, the rawness from their first self-release changed — the production sounding more like other bands due to the major label influence. Still, the writing and performance were good. Especially on the song “Flourescent Adolescent”.

Arctic Monkey’s third record (after Turner’s side project release with the Last Shadow Puppets) was The Age of Understatement in 2008. And they’ve got a new record, Suck It and See, dropping June 11.

Arctic Monkeys are coming to Seattle on August 10 on their tour for the new record.  Wish I could go, but unfortunately they’re playing Showbox SoDo – a challenge for any band – where the stage is way too low so I end up not even seeing the band.  Note: I am only 5 foot 3, so maybe the venue works for really tall people.  But for me, paying a big ticket price to just be in the same room as the band isn’t quite enough.  Wish they were playing the Showbox at the Market where the sound is SO much better and you can actually see the band.

Whether you’re going to the show or not, check out top tracks from Arctic Monkeys on my show this weekend.

Michele Myers spins every Saturday on KEXP from 3-6pm. Every week she plays 3-in-a-row from the Saturday Afternoon Artist. She also hosts Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 6-9am on KEXP’s sister NPR station WNYE 91.5FM in New York City and is the creator of all the radio stories packed with music that we call KEXP Documentaries.

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