In One Track Minded, we pick a select cut from a chosen act and delve beneath the surface. Adam Duke looks back a decade to the burst of energy that brought Alex Turner and his Arctic Monkeys to instant mainstream attention…
Everything Arctic Monkeys-related over the past two years or so, particularly the build up and release of fifth album AM, screamed ‘cool’. The knowing Velvet Underground referencing title. The slicked back hair. The leather trousers. The serrated, slow riff from lead single ‘Do I Wanna Know?’. The tax dodging. Gone was the awkward irony of the Suck it and See era; no longer playing rock stars, Alex Turner and friends fully embraced the position. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing in the year that followed (aside from Turner’s claim that he brought his hairdresser on tour), was when the group received a Brit award.
Turner spouted something about “that Rock and Roll” never dying and then dropped his microphone. Aside from being desperately uncool, this act launched a thousand think pieces about the supposed death of rock music. 10 years ago, when their debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor’ was released, the Arctic Monkeys first found themselves as the centre of think-pieces about the death of rock music. This was primarily because the band had managed to have a number one single without the support of a major record label. Turner and Co. initially found success using the internet, signalling that the days of NME hype (though they were perhaps the last group to truly be effectively hyped by the magazine), major label support and gruelling tours on the indie circuit being hallmarks of success could be a thing of the past. These discussions can be made in hindsight, because it’s likely at the time the biggest novelty of the Arctic Monkeys was how much like you they were.
10 years ago I was 10 years old, and I had little to no interest in pop music or indeed the sea change that the Arctic Monkeys represented in indie. However I could see the legacy of them in my own teenage heroes. The likes of Odd Future and Mac DeMarco carried on a legacy set by the Monkeys. These groups found their initial success via the internet, bypassing the need for a middle man, and they spoke to you directly. And like the monkeys to their initial fan-base, they were the same age as us. Most of us had been a part of shitty bands as teenagers, dreaming of one day being successful, and the amazing and endearing thing about Odd Future and Mac DeMarco and the Arctic Monkeys was they actually did it, whilst still seemingly normal people like us.
There’s nothing wholly original musically about ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. A three chord punk tune indebted to punk-indebted groups like The Libertines and The Strokes, it’s the type of thing that anybody whose just learned three chords would write. Lyrically, it didn’t exactly mark Turner out as something of a unique talent. What’s great about ‘Dancefloor’s’ lyrics is just how adolescent it all is. Turner thinks about how good his object of desire is and wonders about what she wants, a far cry from the more forceful lyrics of ‘Crying Lightning’ or ‘R U Mine?’ He delivers the words with such speed that it seems like he’s embarrassed by them. Indeed, being 19 at the time he was probably mortified singing them on national television. The best play on words in the song; “Your name isn’t Rio but I don’t care for sand” is almost lost in the rapid fire delivery, as though Turner, like the rest of us would, knew that his friends would take the piss.
Whilst perhaps not as technically good as their second time round, Arctic Monkeys’ debut set as Glastonbury headliners – all spots, tracksuits and nervous energy – just under two years after ‘Dancefloor’ came out in 2005, feels far more triumphant. ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ appears about 12 songs in. Upon hearing the crowd’s responsive roar, there’s a brief look of disbelief on Turner’s face, offering a certain truth. If they could do it, anybody could.
Featured Image Credit: Dean Chalkley