How can Arctic Monkeys' biggest album remain under-appreciated?
Matthew Mclister
13:05 18th April 2022

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After the release of 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' in April 2007, Alex Turner and his band were absolutely everywhere. Arctic Monkeys second record went in at number 1 in the UK and brought upon a new wave of acclaim, establishing, without doubt, why they were worthy of their hottest band tag. It really felt like the world (or at least, the UK) belonged to the Arctic Monkeys and the rest of us were lucky to share it with them!

And yet, somehow, this time period in the band’s history feels overlooked. When people speak about peak Arctic Monkeys, it’s an album often underappreciated. Fans will gush over the after-midnight bangers of 'AM', the pulsating garage rock grit of debut 'Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not', or the desert-rock of 'Humbug'. Many will even see the 2018 concept record 'Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino' as the bands most memorable (ok, that might be a stretch…). As the record turns 15, it’s time we gave 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' the love and attention it deserves!

Lets rewind back to just before its release. It was 3am on a bitterly cold Saturday morning in February 2007. I’d just joined a mile long queue outside Ticket Scotland in the centre of Glasgow for T in the Park tickets. Sandwiched in between a group of pissed lads repeatedly singing The View’s ‘Stag Trendy’ and a young trilby wearing teenager arguing ‘til the cows came home that Pete Doherty was the greatest living rock star, it’s not an experience I’d recommend with a hangover looming. Thankfully, my eight hours of sobering hell were worth it once I finally reached the ticket booth and purchased two weekend tickets. In a few months I’d be attending my first festival, and, better still, I’d be seeing my musical idols, the Arctic Monkeys. Needless to say, I was absolutely buzzing!

A few months later, festival season finally commenced and Arctic Monkeys were chosen as Glastonbury headliners, smashing their 90 minute set with the raw bravado they’d built their reputation on. Two weeks passed and it was T in the Park’s turn to get on board the AM festival fever. Amidst a crush of bodies, and pints of, erm, liquid flowing overhead, I was centrally positioned near the front to see my heroes. Even a backdrop of typically Scottish summer rain refused to dampen my spirits as Sheffield’s finest belted out tunes from their first two albums with charisma and swagger.

On stage, they looked the part in their zipped up parkas, striped T-shirts and mop-top haircuts – the undeniable epitome of cool. The whole scene was simply unforgettable, ‘00s indie bliss that I still remember so vividly to this day. Be it Brianstorm or 505, what was also clear was how their new tunes could hold their own with the songs from their debut, chanted back with the same exuberant gusto.

Released a couple of months before, on 18 April 2007, 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' went down as an instant classic, suggesting there was far more to the band than had initially met the eye. As the saying goes, you have your whole life to write your first album and only 18 months to write your second. With that in mind, it’s even more impressive that Arctic Monkeys followed up their record-breaking debut a mere 14 months later.

A year earlier, the overwhelming hype had attracted as many doubters as fans, with the “difficult” second album expected to be exactly that. The haters were waiting to pounce, but Arctic Monkeys delivered a fantastic second far more wide-ranging in scope. Thankfully, the expected backlash never arrived. Gone were the one-dimensional, crashing tales of dancefloor romance and teenage shenanigans, in came lyrical-subtly and dynamism. Such progress saw swaggering, radio friendly bangers (Teddy Picker, Fluorescent Adolescent), alongside Morricone-inspired love songs (505), groovey, ominous anthems (This House is a Circuit, Do Me A Favour)and dreamy numbers (Only Ones Who Know). It gave us some of the tracks that would serve as the all-time top players for the band, remaining as staples for every indie night ever with no sign of being usurped. But when you can the average person what their favourite AM record is, its a crime that the answer is so rarely 'Favourite Worst Nightmare'.

Yet it's the album that would earn them a Mercury Prize nomination and the following February they’d take home the coveted Best British Album at the BRIT Awards. However, more important to the album’s legacy is how it marked Arctic Monkeys as an elite tier band willing to take risks in the pursuit of their development, something they’ve progressed on each album since, moving from pure indie rock to americana to concept lounge music. 

The success of his band’s second record also saw frontman Alex Turner come out his shell, moving away from a reserved young man in trackies, to a bona fide rock star and style icon. Of course, much of this was due to becoming one-half of an indie power-couple with presenter and model Alexa Chung - a pairing none of us saw coming but all miss dearly! By 2013, the band’s fashion became as much of a talking point as the music itself and the signs were there from 2007 of their developing fashionista appeal.

I’m not saying 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' is Arctic Monkeys best album (definitely a debate for another day…), but it’s a time period that deserves far more icon status than it currently receives. They followed up their early hype with a dynamic statement of intent, refusing to be slipped up by the second album curse and carving out a path entirely different from their peers with this album as the starting point. In 2007, as a young indie fan, I went through eight hours of hell to get tickets to see them. Soon after hearing 'Favourite Worst Nightmare', I’d have done it all done it again in a heartbeat.

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