Friday, October 28, 2005

Graeme Jamieson ~ Echo Through The Air

Three months ago I went to see an unheralded band from Sheffield called the Arctic Monkeys. Thirteen weeks on, and they have gone straight into the British Singles Chart at Number One.

This in itself may seem unremarkable, for I know what's good and what's good I know - while topping the UK Charts no longer demands sales by the million-load. But the interesting shift is, up to that night and in their intervening upward flight, they've gone about scaling such heights kind of differently.

Not for them any heavyweight moneymen backing, or the soul-selling packaging of pap-by-numbers. This is a set of 19-year old smarts whose angular influence and lyrical sense will act as admonishment for the music industry's fatbellied pigs peddling crap from their infernal ivory basements. So don't expect bling and Bentleys and a bevvy of broads in their backpacks - or even a staged-collapse, model girlfriend and Class A relapse.

Theirs is a rare reputation built on enthusiastic word of mouth, and the admiration hasn't been hyped up in some buzzroom down South. For ages, they were an underground sound - and I mean, from the playground - in the old steel city of England. If you hadn't gone to hear them, the only way to get near them was by downloading demos from the internet. Literally, they've marketed themselves to the tech-savvy set.

Why? Call it cockiness or kookiness or simply sure-footedness. What we have here, and what they obviously know, dear, is a lark back to some of the finest zeitgeist songwriting Great Britain has ever produced. Think of the observational quick-step of the The Kinks and the bon-mot thoughts of the Small Faces, the say-it-like-it-is street-cred of The Jam and the cross-pollinating swagger of The Specials, the raw lyrical-witticism of The Streets and the formative story-poetry of the Clash-schooled Libertines. Now think means.

The Arctic Monkeys are going to ring-fence a time and a place, and that time and place could become the face of a generation. On the basis of their already meteoric demonstration, we're going to want to leap to this rhyme and learn to keep pace.

Their debut single "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" is released in the US on Friday. If you like your pop fresh, sharp, droll, and wry, make haste to your local independent record store, and don't leave until you buy.

If you'd rather wait, my guess is they'll follow up with "Fake Tales of San Francisco", but by then everyone everywhere will be catching on, and it might be like heading to Hamburg in 1962 - you'll be mopped up-top, but somehow somewhat late - with the fab four already gone.

Graeme Jamieson

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