While they may have inadvertently caused a decade’s worth of sub-par indie rock acts to follow in their footsteps, it’s hard to argue that the Arctic Monkeys haven’t helped to define a decade of music, at least in the UK. Hailing from Sheffield, this band have managed to not only be critically acclaimed throughout their whole career but also commercial, managing to make it just as big across the pond as they did at home. With a new album set to drop anytime in 2018, Andy (@weeandreww), Ethan (@human_dis4ster), Oli (@notoliverbutler), Rory (@rorymeep) and Ross (@rossm98) determine which Arctic Monkeys album is truly the best. So, without further ado, let’s get this list built brick by brick…
Quick disclaimer: This is, like, our opinion or whatever, dude. Disagree? The comments down below will house whatever rage you’re feeling.
5. AM (2013)
Rory [5th]: Perhaps the obvious choice for the last position on this list, but… that’s just because of how bad it is. AM is every inch a dud, and listening to it now provides just as much disappointment as it did back in 2013. Not even a Josh Homme cameo manages to inject any degree of passion or excitement into these tracks, with the majority just sounding half-arsed. Sure, there are a few gems, Do I Wanna Know? and R U Mine? are classics, but that just doesn’t obscure that the rest of the record is a total wet blanket. Gone is the energy of previous albums, and in its place a turgid, dull attempt at reinvention; the sound of a band who forgot what made them great in the first place.
Ethan [5th]: AM. What to say about this garbage. I really really hate this album and I don’t know what to say. It has 2 good songs? The rest all sound the same and it’s just a complete bore. Honestly what happened to Alex Turner? This album is creepy, it’s vapid, it’s devoid of personality, it’s trash.
Andrew [5th]: It will surprise no one to see the Sheffield four-piece’s latest record bottom of the list, and I am not going to buck that trend. However, I will stand in defence of this record against the hyperbole it has been tarred with since its release in 2013. It’s far from being vintage Arctic Monkeys, but the record has a very clear aesthetic running through every track – and when it’s executed well, like on the snarling one-two opening of Do I Wanna Know? and R U Mine?, it hears the band at their best with a sound that marks new territory on the 5th LP of their career – no mean feat.
However – while the dark, sultry aesthetic runs through every track – the execution is far less consistent, which leaves tracks like I Want It All and Fireside which sound lazy, unwritten and unfinished and that they only made it on the album for Alex Turner to swivel his hips to on stage in pursuit of his newfound sleazy persona. It’s worth noting though that for every Fireside, there’s a stunner like the Josh Homme-aided Knee Socks. The verdict: Arctic Monkeys’ worst album? Undoubtedly. A bad album? By no means.
Oli [3rd]: Humbug and Suck It And See were whelming at best, and largely underwhelming, so AM came like a breath of fresh air in 2013. Right from the rough mix of R U Mine, the hype was building for this new album, and it lived up to expectations. The slow, cool feel to this album is what makes it great. The smoothness of the tempo makes you feel you’re sat in a smoky club, bathed in a sultry red light. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High slaps with a capital S, and Arabella is an absolute must-queue when you’re driving in the later summer sun.
Ross [5th]: AM returns to where the Monkeys feel most at home: the club, the bar, the house-party. Unfortunately, it is incredibly hard to write music for these places that has an abundance of originality or complexity. However, it was clear that Alex Turner had a vision for this project, and it was expressed well in its tone. Despite this, for a band that’s been going for 10 years and are five albums in, this album seems to be a warning that things are getting a bit dry.
4. Humbug (2009)
Ethan [4th]: For me, Humbug is more interesting than it is loveable. It doesn’t have the replay value of Arctic Monkey’s other records but it is definitely their riskiest. At the time of its release, it perplexed many fans at first but all the key elements of the band were still there, most notably Turners lyrical ability still improving upon his already high standards. However, for me, the sound doesn’t have as much versatility as the band like to think it does and by the end of the album, it becomes slightly one note. Far from a bad album, even though it’s not their best many of the bands they originally impaired couldn’t make an album this innovative but it was an interesting detour and will always be definitive in their career as it showed they weren’t afraid to stray from the norm.
Andrew [1st]: Humbug is undoubtedly the weird Arctic Monkeys’ album. It was recorded in the desert and produced by Josh Homme, but it is the record’s songwriting that sets it apart from the rest of the Sheffield band’s discography – conscious of becoming pigeonholed as ‘just another indie rock band’, Humbug is a sharp left-turn, where the band largely avoid writing hooks in favour of moodier, more progressive, psych-influenced tracks. As you would expect, this bold move divided fans and critics, but personally, I think it’s the best record the band have released so far.
Sonically, it is their most consistent and cohesive album, with this plodding sound running through every track, the guitars are generally slower but sound almost quadruple-tracked with menace and there are keys on every track which adds a new layer to the record’s psychedelia. Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to this record is that Turner’s lyricism doesn’t shine as brightly as other records – because the instrumentals are so good. His role on Humbug is subtly different – it’s not a spoken word record but he typically sings less and more adopts the role of narrator on certain tracks – and he is a narrator who seems to revel in the eeriness of his tales.
Oli [5th]: Bollocks to you and your takes. “But Butler!” I hear you cry “Humbug is a GOOD album”. But it’s not. Of course, one album has to come last in this ranking, but this album deserves to come last. It was a case of third album syndrome for AM, as Humbug just didn’t do anything to further or build on what the first two albums, and it just felt like generic indie-by-numbers. Some sort of 2006 indie explosion offshoot, like it, could’ve been by a band called The Ejaculating Raspberries and just had AM’s name slapped on top of it, because they’d spent all their studio time playing Tetris or something. Crying Lightning is still a tune, but the rest of it? Disgusting. Get away with you.
Ross [4th]: One of the darker albums from the boy’s discography, resembling a product of The Doors or even Echo and the Bunnymen, Humbug seems a little too forgetful. Nevertheless, it was a change for Turner to write with heavy, sexy overtones and a necessary one at that. The project’s importance to the listener doesn’t quite match the importance of Turner’s style evolving. Its production is flamboyant and obnoxious, and a little too much. Humbug is like a good looking, well baked caked that, when it comes to scranning, is just too sweet.
Rory [3rd]: And now we get to the really good stuff. This one polarised, and continues to polarise, fans when it came out, and it’s not difficult to see why. While Favourite Worst Nightmare saw the band shake up their sound a little, Humbug saw the boys from Sheffield shed many of their established hallmarks entirely. In the process though, they crafted a pretty damn great album. These tracks double down on the darkness hinted at on their sophomore record, with some such as My Propeller coming across outright menacing. The added use of keyboards only adds to this wonderfully enthralling atmosphere, injecting tracks like Pretty Visitors, an all-time top 5 Arctic Monkeys tune if you ask me, with a brilliant sense of intensity. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s a damn sight more interesting than most third records and stands as the most recent truly great effort from the band.
3. Suck It And See (2011)
Andrew [2nd]: On listening to the easy-going Suck It and See, it’s easy to forget how bold a record this truly is. British rock bands are given a particularly hard time when it comes to “selling out” – diluting their sound and its quirks for mainstream success (just look at the comments of a Biffy Clyro Facebook post). Therefore, it was incredibly bold for the Arctic Monkeys to make their 4th LP a straight-up, 60s-inspired pop record. The sound actually suits them down to the ground – Alex Turner’s lyricism perhaps shines brighter than on any other record, and the instrumentals are irresistible.
Tracks like Piledriver Waltz and Love is a Laserquest are built on warm guitar tones which feel uplifting and melancholy simultaneously – the title track and She’s Thunderstorms both have a classical sound to them which perfectly align with Turner’s lovesick lyrics – this album sounds like the instrumentals were written to match the lyrics which results in a beautifully inviting sound throughout. However, the Arctic Monkeys didn’t lose their edge – Library Pictures and Don’t Sit Down… are bangers nightmarish enough to fit on Humbug – so Suck it and See showcases the four-piece’s versatility – and their talent for being really fucking good at everything.
Oli [4th]: I remember being absolutely underwhelmed by this album. It came at a time where I was getting more and more into music, so I er, ahem, acquired it when it came out and spent much of my remaining study leave playing this album on repeat, and I just couldn’t grow to like it. Maybe I had high hopes for it being massively into indie and the like back then, and it didn’t live up to my huge expectations, but even today I still don’t enjoy it. It just felt a bit flat and didn’t feel as rough and edgy as the first two albums, and I still feel a bit bored with it today. However, Black Treacle still remains a sweet favourite.
Ross [1st]: This writer is prepared for impending hate but will firmly stand his ground on this one. In terms of writing, instrumentation, production and delivery, this is the Arctic Monkey’s best album. The timbre dances around a shoegaze tone that entwines beautifully with Turner’s poetry in ‘The Hellcat Spangled Sha la la’ and ‘That’s Where your wrong’. However, the band also stick close to their roots by coming out with other heavy ballads with their unique edge in ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and ‘Library Pictures’. Alex Turner is without a doubt at his best lyrically, just off the back of writing the critically acclaimed soundtrack for the film ‘Submarine‘. In terms of technical ability, the Arctic Monkeys have never delivered so well as they did on Suck it and See. The album’s direction clear, Turner’s vision is displayed perfectly through his lyrics, which is emphasised through the backline’s performance and input on the tracks. It is a masterpiece.
Rory [4th]: It’s easy to forget just how decent this one is. While it doesn’t have the youthful bombast of their early work or the radio-friendly slickness of AM, this sunny collection of tunes remains a perfectly enjoyable, and occasionally great, chapter of the band’s discography. Admittedly, it contains a few dull exercises in mid-tempo balladry, but when all the parts click into place there’s some undeniably great music that often unfairly falls through the cracks. Black Treacle and The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, for example, both deserve to rank amongst the bands finest moments, and it’s a shame that their positioning within an otherwise average record tends to obscure that.
Ethan [3rd]: Suck It And See was yet another twist in Arctic Monkeys discography. Bar a couple of tracks, it is mostly a collection of much simpler, quieter tracks, showcasing Turner’s voice, lyricism and charm. Perhaps showing their growth as people as well musicians, the tracks focus less on tales of drunkenness like their earlier albums. Maybe disappointing for some fans to see this departure but it gave us beautiful songs such as Love Is a Laserquest so no complaints from me. It lacks the raw energy that made their first two albums truly great albums but it is still a worthwhile addition nonetheless.
2. Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
Oli [1st]: You don’t headline Glastonbury after two albums for no good reason, and FWN proved that AM were no turkeys. From front to back, this is such an enjoyable album and built on that rough-but-refined sound that WPSIAM brought to the table. Right from the first frantic bar of Brianstorm to the anthemic 505, this represented an early peak in AM’s career. One of the definite standouts on this album is If You Were There, Beware. The way that every note on that riff is stabbed is absolutely sublime. That being said, the word sublime could be applied to every album.
Ross [3rd]: This top 3 was the hardest to decide. It was migraine worthy. Delivering a follow-up album that was the same standard as their debut was always going to be a struggle for Turner, but this one was a real team effort from the band collectively. With Matt Helder’s explosive drums in ‘Do Me a Favour’ to Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley’s punchy bass and electric guitar in ‘Old Yellow Bricks’, Turner took common, upbeat Alt. Rock and gave it a slick edge. In the second half of the album, he also shows the other weapons in his armoury, with ‘505‘ and ‘The Only Ones Who Know’ proving that he can go from a hard-hitting anthem to a slow, carefully crafted love song. This album quite simply shook up the foundation of Indie music.
Rory [2nd]: An altogether darker and more restrained effort than their debut, this second album still manages to run its predecessor close for the number one spot. Although more of a gradual progression in sound than a dramatic shift, these tracks simmer with a different kind of underlying intensity. Turner’s vocal delivery is sharper and more aggressive, and the same goes for the instrumentation, resulting in an album that’s effectively one long shot of energy. Tracks like Balaclava and D is for Dangerous deserve to be thought of as some of the best indie rock songs of that decade, and even when they play it a little safer, like on the Channel 4-core of Fluorescent Adolescent, they normally stick the landing.
Ethan [1st]: Favourite Worst Nightmare could have been such a different result. Bands often define their career with their second album, either setting their sights on bigger and better things or staying content with what they are already doing and showing little desire to be truly great. While some seem to think FWN is similar to their debut album, that is far from the truth if you really delve into their best album. The biggest change is their improvements musically, it flows perfectly track to track and each member is in spectacular form, Matt Helders especially, and its distinct sound is forever immersive. Moving on thematically from their debut, this album is more sophisticated yet still holds Turner’s signature charm on tracks such as Fluorescent Adolescent yet foreshadows the darkness of Humbug on If You Were There, Beware. Favourite Worst Nightmare finds the band at their peak in every sense and leaves us with a perfect album.
Andrew [4th]: Favourite Worst Nightmare is a very good album – however it comes in second-bottom for me due to the Arctic Monkeys’ incredible consistency. On (almost) every record, the band have clearly tried to experiment and find a brand new sound – and this is where Favourite Worst Nightmare loses out for me. There is clear development from the debut (Alex Turner’s lyrical maturity and Matt Helders’ drumming have come on leaps and bounds, and shine on this record), however there is no reinvention of the band’s sound like there is from this record to Humbug.
That does nothing to discredit Favourite Worst Nightmare as an excellent collection of songs – Teddy Picker is arguably the first time the band brought a real sense of swagger to a track, Fluorescent Adolescent is arguably still the best pop song Alex Turner has written and on the other side of spectrum, Do Me a Favour is a brilliantly typical Arctic Monkeys moody banger. However, the showstopper is closer 505 – an eerily beautiful track beginning in a hush which grows in power and menace as it powers on, propelled by some of Alex Turner’s greatest lyrics, before it explodes into a massive climax which somehow still incorporates the track’s eeriness – a sign of the band’s mammoth potential and left-field leanings.
1. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
Ross [2nd]: The reason this album is so impressive is the pressure put on such a young band from the get-go. They released the singles of WPSIA on SoundCloud for free and they blew up with popularity. Instantly dubbed ‘Britain’s answer to The Strokes’ and the band that ‘Is carrying the Torch of The Libertines’, you’d think any teenage band from Sheffield would crumble. Instead, the Arctic Monkey’s rode the hype and captured young, working-class British Culture in an album. This showed through it being the fastest-selling British record of all time. Its intimate production, rough grungy guitars and intense vocals came together to make one of the best Indie records of all time. But it’s not their best.
Rory [1st]: The first, and still the best. It’s the obvious choice for the number one spot but for very good reasons; all these years later it still manages to hold up as an exciting and engaging listen. Around every corner, there’s a track you thought you forgot about, but it’s not the nostalgia of rediscovering old favourites that makes this album great, it’s the sincerity. Whatever you feel about his later shifts in persona and whatnot, on this record, Alex Turner comes across at his most genuine, humble, and human, and that really lends these tracks a special feeling. Whether he’s cheekily recounting the tale of a run-in with the cops on Riot Van or just straight up singing about a Sheffield night out, it’s hard not to grin along and get wrapped up in the sheer fun of it all. Admittedly, it spawned a thousand painfully dull copy-cats, but that shouldn’t obscure just how good this debut was, and is.
Ethan [2nd]: An instant classic, Arctic Monkeys debut album is a burst of personality and passion. WPSIATWIN announced their arrival with so much confidence yet is endlessly likeable. Young Alex Turner’s performance is always the highlight, delivering his witty observational lyrics with sincerity. The album that transformed Arctic Monkeys into one of the countries biggest bands and birthed an entire era of music, WPSIATWIN is still equally as vital today, each song holding its own atmosphere and story yet they all come together in Turner’s fully realised world of Sheffield as a teen and it is still a joy to hear his stories each time he tells them.
Andrew [3rd]: The Arctic Monkeys’ debut arguably still characterises them in a sense that most band’s debuts rarely do – and for good reason. Whatever People Say I Am… has become nothing short of legendary since its 2006 release, propelling the band into superstardom almost overnight, and it’s easy to see why. The record is a concept album – a love letter to Sheffield nightlife and all its trials and tribulations, and Alex Turner’s poetry is told atop a fusion of Strokes-esque New Wave and punk, and it’s a sound that countless indie bands still pine for, long after Arctic Monkeys moving on.
What has made this album so legendary to this day is how relatable almost every track is to anyone familiar with clubbing – take Dancing Shoes’ anecdote of being too nervous to approach a love interest or Fake Tales of San Francisco’s snarling put-down of try-hard, inauthentic local bands. Both these topics could be perceived as mundane, but Turner’s lyricism elevates these tracks to anthem status, combined with the youthful energy of the instrumentals. Whatever People Say I Am.. was a record that boldly demanded the spotlight, and the Arctic Monkeys’ following output has refused to ever give that up.
Oli [2nd]: A staple of every pre-drink playlist from the years 2009 to well, today, WPSIATWIN is definitely one of “those” albums that represent the changeover from shy wallflower to overly noisy piss artist in my life. Walking around my mate’s uni digs, sinking a disgusting amount of spiced rum and letting tracks like Riot Van and I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor to permeate the excitement in the room. This album would follow us around too because somewhere around 2am, we’d all be flapping about to When the Sun Goes Down. The rough, live feel of this album really adds to it, and even when it first came out I was blown away by it, and sometimes still am.