Friday, March 17, 2006

Anticipation has the habit to set you up for disappointment...

Tomorrow night I'm seeing a show I am really anticipating. The Arctic Monkeys have received a ton of buzz on both sides of the Atlantic -- they are so widely hyped it has certainly started the backlash -- and I'm looking forward to seeing how they hold up in a live setting, which I feel is the true test of a band's worth. I saw them on SNL last weekend and thought they did okay. It was their first U.S. television appearance (U.S. performance?), so I'll throw them a flyer on not blowing me away. Some bands have good songs and little stage presence, other bands have both. AM fell somewhere in between, although in a fairly atypical environment.

Here's the thing. Songwriters that create interesting characters and tell a compelling story almost always earn heavy kudos in my book, so I'm prone to like the Arctic Monkeys for that reason alone. You can dig on the Arctic Monkeys' music as being derivative (and for this reason alone not being worthy of "the next big thing" label) -- and I'll concede that they are not reinventing the wheel here -- but you can't take away Alex Turner's ability to synthesize a common experience and turn it into something all at once novel and familiar. Turning lad culture into something relevant and interesting is not a small feat. Turner takes something no one thinks about (escapism is not about thinking) and draws interesting conclusions from it, to go along with an interesting narrative.
"Get on your dancing shoes /
There's one thing on your mind /
Hoping they’re looking for you /
Sure you'll be rummaging' through /

And the shit, shock, horror /
You've seen your future bride /
Oh, but it's oh so absurd /
For you to say the first word /
So you're waiting and waiting /

The only reason that you came /
So what you scared for? /
don't you always do the same /
It's what you there for, don't you know"
-- "Dancing Shoes"

Of course for as much as I'm looking forward to seeing the show and perhaps being a part of the narrative world Turner has transcribed -- it certainly carries a romantic (in the idealized sense) weight, in my mind -- I'm also worried that the show will pull back the curtain. While the band doesn't need to be "performers" by a long stretch (a good amount of their appeal is the "everyman" image they sing about), I want them to show they are smarter than your average guy at the bar looking to take someone home. Smarter than me.

There is also the chance that the hype machine has already taken the organic appeal out of it all; that the crowd will be the Abercrombie kids will outnumber the hipsters. Both carry their own stereotypes, but one is decidedly more reserved. And for as nostalgic as the music might make me for the times where getting wasted and acting a fool where common, I'm happy have grown out of that stage and have likely (to my horror, oncoming maturity!) passed the point where seeing kids acting like kids is entertaining. (Editorial note: I can't believe I just wrote that last paragraph... shakes head at self)
"Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks /
Or knackered Converse /
Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks /
But all of that's what the point is not /
The point's that there isn’t no romance around there /

And there's the truth that they can't see /
They'd probably like to throw a punch at me /
And if you could only see them, then you would agree /
Agree that there isn’t no romance around there /

It's a funny thing you know /
We'll tell them if you like /
We'll tell them all tonight /
They'll never listen /
Cause their minds are made up /
And course it's all okay to carry on that way /

Over there there's broken bones /
There's only music, so that there's new ringtones /
And it doesn’t take no Sherlock Holmes /
To see it's a little different around here /

Don't get me wrong though there's boys in bands /
And kids who like to scrap with pool cues in their hands /
And just cause he's had a couple of cans /
He thinks it's alright to act like a dickhead /

Well over there there's friends of mine /
What can I say, I've known them for a long long time /
And they might overstep the line /
But you just cannot get angry in the same way"
-- "A Certain Romance"

Broadly, Arctic Monkeys make music about why you go out. Why it's an escape and why you do it every week ("It's just something to talk about / a story to tell" -- "From the Ritz to the Rubble"). For an entire region (the U.K.), that has resonated. They are songs about lives led every day in boring towns with nothing to do, not celebrity lives no one actually leads, and it fills a wide hole in the culture. You can't underestimate the appeal of peers telling stories to peers. Quickly, you're seeing the Arctic Monkeys same success translating to the U.S. where kids are just as bored and just as lost. Finally, someone is talking to them, not at them.

This is my backstory going into the show Saturday. As is the custom, I'll let you know what takes place. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Arctic Monkeys || Dancing Shoes (live from KCRW)
Arctic Monkeys || A Certain Romance (live from KCRW)

1 comment:

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