I purposedly avoided writing about this album before, mostly because I adore it so much and I feel like I can’t really put my love for this record into text. Last week marked the 12th anniversary of its release, and to celebrate it I tried to collect my thoughts. This will probably be my least objective review, but this album truly deserves all the praise I’m gonna give it (and more!)
First let’s talk about the music, because even without the lyrical context it’s a perfect example of how a garage/punk/indie band should sound – energetic, melodic and raw, it’s the sound of four talented young men (they were literally teenagers when the album was recorded) playing brilliantly written songs with all the passion and energy in the world. The songwriting is surprisingly mature and creative – most of the songs don’t really fit the classic verse/chorus scheme, constantly switching moods and tempo.
That’s already a blueprint for a pretty solid album, but the key element that transform it into an era-defining masterpiece are the lyrics. The album is pretty much a concept, with all the songs following a loose theme of nightlife and relationships. Alex Turner’s sarcastic wit and creative use of words make for lots of unforgettable lines and metaphores that are understood by pretty much every young person in the world. Even though some references became outdated after 12 years (the press the star after you press unlock line in the opening track for example) the album is as relatable now as it was right after its release.
There’s no escape from Turner’s vicious sarcasm: bands struggling to be “cool” (Fake Tales of San Francisco), fake friends (Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong, But…) or even asshole taxi drivers (Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured) – everyone gets slammed equally, but with a sense of self-awareness and a large dose of poetic romanticism (the prime example is the stunning closer A Certain Romance). Even when Alex is singing about love, he does it in an unconventional way, avoiding the cliches (Mardy Bum or their first huge hit, I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor). The delivery of those lyrics is also quite unique – sometimes the vocals are strangely muffled (Riot Van), sometimes it’s borderline rapping (From The Ritz to the Rubble – possibly the best song on the album). Either way, it’s delivered with a that trademark Yorkshire accent – it made such an impression on me that I tried to speak like that myself – much to the surprise of my English teacher. Anyway, the impact this album made on me as a teenager is beyond comparison. I have never (ever) heard a record so compelling, so simple yet so clever, the amount of personality and talent in these 40 minutes of music is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard. Highly recommended, although my opinion is as biased as it possibly can be.