Should a band make the same record twice? I’ve always found myself drawn toward bands that are constantly evolving, and I believe that sonic evolution is characteristic of a band’s maturing process.
Unfortunately, far too many times I’ve heard music fans say something to the effect of, “(Insert band’s name here)’s new album is just too different. They’ve gone mainstream. I can’t even listen to the new stuff.” I say to you, musical-cynics young and old, give the subject of your disinterest at least one more chance.
One band in particular comes to mind as a case study for the maturing process. Let’s examine the Arctic Monkeys, shall we? Its first full-length release, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” was packed with infectious melodies, harmonized guitar riffs and lyrics about underage drinking, dancing and fashion consciousness. Honestly, what’s not to like?
This band has produced some quality indie rock. Its devil-may-care attitude, explosive dance beats and raw rock crunch made for an emotionally-charged listening experience. The rawness of both the subject matter and sound of “Whatever People Say I Am.” only made the Arctic Monkeys that much more appealing to me. Its follow-up, however, was a deviation from these themes.
Aptly named, “Favourite Worst Nightmare” took on darker lyrical subjects, and nearly all of the lightheartedness of the band’s previous release seemed to vanish. The delightfully-unrefined rock presence was also toned down. What happened?
To be frank, the Arctic Monkeys grew up. This may seem somewhat improbable since the two releases were only a year apart, but the material on the first record had been previously released and then revamped. The themes dealt with in their previous releases were tales of angst, frustration and adolescence. “Favourite Worst Nightmare” is both a farewell to and departure from adolescence.
Sonically, “Favourite Worst Nightmare” is reflective of this change. The vocals are distant in the mix and drenched in ambient reverb. The drums are right up-front and in your face, while the guitars hover above the raucous rhythm section, sending clanging, distorted riffs down like rain. “Favourite Worst Nightmare” certainly took on a darker tone, but the same devil-may-care attitude remained as the music’s backbone.
“Favourite Worst nightmare” is still an Arctic Monkeys record at its core. This latest release, however, showcases a band that has matured musically. Why some previous fans may have shunned this release is no mystery to me. The mood of the record is dark and desolate. Tonally, the lads from Sheffield have refined their musicianship and taste in both guitar tones and musical arrangements.
All of this is difficult to pick up on a first listen. I’ll admit that based on my first impression of “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” I preferred “Whatever People Say I Am.,” but with each listen I began to appreciate the newly refined Arctic Monkeys.
Making the same record twice is a wise marketing decision. I feel like this is part of the greater “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” mentality of the music industry. Bands are producing records that are difficult to differentiate between. Fall Out Boy comes to mind. In some genres, the need to produce a successful follow-up release has surpassed the desire to create inspired music.
This is clearly not the case with the Arctic Monkeys. “Favourite Worst Nightmare” showcases a band that dared to let its sound evolve, and the final product, though maybe not as initially accessible as its previous release, is truly inspired. So I implore you, give (insert band’s name here)’s latest record another chance. You might find its appeal the second time around.