Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Dispatch After the Show

As I stood in the back of the dimly lit Mercury Lounge, I found myself surrounded by five middle-aged balding men. Not that I have anything against middle-aged balding men--I've known many in my life--but the follicle challenged wall blocking my view was especially odd considering I was at a rock show.

The first American Arctic Monkey audience was a veritable who's-who of, um, the corporate men that sit amongst piles and piles of unsolicited demos sent in by unsigned bands. Needless to say, they don't shout song requests, they don't cheer, and they certainly don't mosh. Not necessarily a thrilling live experience. The band, a nervous, pimple-ridden quartet of nineteen-year-olds performed on stage appropriately like teenagers. Unsure, a bit defiant, and somewhat apathetic, as if to say, We're the Arctic Monkeys and we're here. You're here. Why not play a few songs?

The Monkeys sped through a feverish and hyperactive set of post-punk pub rock, their sound akin to a un-metrosexual Franz Ferdinand, a brattier Buzzcocks raised in the Oasis versus Blur decade. While the songs are strong and catchy, ultimately, after five or six of them, they lose their memorable distinctiveness. This is a band that's neither great nor bad. They're just pretty good (not that that's a bad thing. Being pretty good is definitively a feat). But perhaps my lack of enthusiasm is due in part to the incessant and insane hype imported from the UK. How could my personal expectations not be sky high? After all, I expected Jesus and the Christs, not an admirably tight foursome of rebel-rousing teens.

When I met the Arctic Monkeys before their debut show, none of them could understand why they were the source of so much excitement. "We're just okay," said bassist Andy Nicholson. "Not sure what all the bloody fuss is about." And in fact, he's right. This is a band at the very beginning of their career. These songs and albums are the equivalent of awkward high school portraits. They're really good and quite enjoyable although I'm not sure if they're going to unite a generation. But perhaps when the industry finds a new carcass (a good band name?) to feed on, maybe the Arctic Monkeys will then finally have the opportunity to be the heroes they have the potential to be. Or, maybe they won't.


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