Another year, another British band christened the Next Big Thing by every conceivable publication in the UK. In 2006, the lads du jour are Arctic Monkeys, a quartet of barely legal Sheffield natives whose trenchant lyrics draw comparisons to Mike Skinner and Elvis Costello and whose kinetic music is often mentioned in the same breath as The Jam and Oasis. It’s inevitable that the maelstrom of hype will likely overwhelm the band’s much buzzed about record—very few debuts can ever withstand frenzied adulation before most of America has heard it. Consider it somewhat of a compliment then that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not actually comes close to living up to expectations—unless, of course, that’s playing into the irony of the title.
Sonically sandwiched neatly between the Britpop of Blur and the more experimental alternative rock of Stone Roses, you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised that NME lost its collective shit over this boisterous band—the album’s cumulative effect is that of a twentysomething’s attempts at synthesizing the last 15 years of British pop music. Speaking of youth, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner is the real discovery here; intoxicated with the ebullience of his roguish ideas and gifted with a razorblade wit reminiscent of a certain Mr. Costello, Turner infuses tracks like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” with a wise-beyond-his-years weariness and grimy, street-level soul.
Perhaps more so than the previous Next Big Thing titleholders’ debut—that’d be angular art rockers Franz Ferdinand, for those of you playing along at home—Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not rockets along, ending far too soon and triggering an immediate urge to find out how soon this band has a gig near you. Whether this It band can sustain any momentum beyond its current meteoric rise remains to be seen, but should Turner continue crafting his devastatingly incisive lyrics, he should be around for some time to come.