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Looking Back: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and the monumental bang it punches has certainly stood the test of time. It’s undeniable that this is one of their most defining records, and even the album art alone has become an icon in the UK music scene. 

Being that I was just six years old when the album released (I know, I know….), I was a few years late to the party. I first found Arctic Monkeys when I was about eleven after randomly seeing their video for “Fluorescent Adolescent” pop up on YouTube. I was immediately hooked, and I absolutely needed to hear more; thus began my deep-dive into their discography of the time. 

Now, don’t get me wrong—every record of theirs is nothing short of a masterpiece. There’s something special about WPSIATWIN, though, and I frequently find myself being pulled towards it the most and listening to it in full every time. With such a mint tracklist, how could you even think about pressing skip on any song?

The record opens up with fast-paced, intoxicating energy through “The View From The Afternoon.” It serves as an incredible introduction for the rest of the album and provides listeners with a good idea of what’s to come. It’s playful, it’s loud, and it’s boisterous, and that sort of vivacity definitely doesn’t end there as “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” follows it up. To this day, it remains one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys songs of all time, and I know I’m not alone when I say that this is a legendary one. I mean, have you seen the way crowds react when they hear this song? There is no way in hell you could ever sit still while it plays, and if you somehow can, I don’t think I can trust you. End of. 

Next up is “Fake Tales Of San Francisco,” which happens to be one that gets stuck in my head quite easily, but I’m definitely not complaining. The catchy guitar riffs, the comedic lyrics, the explosion that erupts from the band after the lyric “So all that’s left / Is the proof that love’s not only blind but deaf…” 

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. 

The next three songs that follow are perfectly placed, in my opinion. You’ve got “Dancing Shoes,” which practically begs you to get up, stop paying any mind to what others may think or say, and just have fun. “You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me” is another personal favourite of mine (criminally underrated, might I add), and it’s such an addictive track. It does a fantastic job at keeping the energy high, which then leads into the snarky, boyish track “Still Take You Home” flawlessly. 

Oh, “Riot Van,” how I love you so. It’s an absolute dream of a song; I love the story that is told within the lyrics, and the overall feel of the track is drastically more chilled out than the rest of the album. “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured” snaps listeners out of that trance, though, and my god, does it do an amazing job at getting people back up on their feet. Just below, you will find my favourite verse in that song; the delivery will never fail to give me chills.

Well calm down, temper, temper

You shouldn’t get so annoyed

Well, you’re acting like a silly little boy

And they wanted to be men

And do some fighting in the street

They said, “No surrender

No chance of retreat”

It goes without saying that “Mardy Bum” is a staple in Arctic Monkeys’ discography. Despite the lyrics describing a rather rocky relationship, it has such a youthful charm that can make anybody’s eyes light up just by hearing the first few chords. It’s the essence of perfection summed up in under three minutes. Need I say more?

Alright, my favourite, favourite song off of the record is up next. “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…” is an absolute mind-blower. I’ve loyally stood by this one as my personal top pick for ages now, and I definitely don’t see it changing anytime soon. I’m just genuinely in love with every single aspect of this song; I love the dirty tone of the guitars, the aggression within the lyrics, and the killer jam session that fills up the remainder of the track. Plus, who doesn’t love hearing Alex Turner shout, “All you people are vampires!” towards the end? 

Like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Mardy Bum,” “When The Sun Goes Down” is another quintessential Arctic Monkeys song. I still haven’t been able to catch an Arctic Monkeys show, but whenever I do, I would be willing to make a deal with the devil to guarantee that this would be on the setlist. It is both a desperate want and need to hear this live, and in case you need any further evidence as to why that is, look no further.

Now we’re down to the final two tracks: “From The Ritz To The Rubble” and “A Certain Romance.” What a way to draw the record to a close, huh? Both songs are exhilarating and successfully encapsulate the general feel of the entire album, and before you know it, you’re back to “The View From The Afternoon” to give it another well-deserved listen. 

Can you tell I absolutely adore this record? Since I found it at such a young age, it’s safe to say that it played a massive role in shaping my taste in music. I hold it near and dear to my heart, and I’m confident that this will be an album people still talk about in decades to come. Happy 15th, you powerhouse, you.