20. Big Boys and Stolen Lovers (2005)
Arctic Monkeys have skillfully gone from being observers of everyday life to success on a scale that means you don’t have to watch everyday life anymore. However, a certain local charm has been lost along the way, as evidenced by this early B-side, a sharp, barkingly funny tale of high school romantic heartbreak.
19. Beautiful Guests (2009)
Alex Turner’s lyrics naturally get the most attention, but Matt Helders’ tight, explosive drumming is the Arctic Monkeys’ secret weapon. He’s certainly a key ingredient in Pretty Visitors , relentlessly propelling the song through a series of rhythmic turns; the crazy but accurate series of shots he plays for 30 seconds is stunning.
18. One Point Perspective (2018)
You can understand why the hazy, slowed-down sound of their 2018 album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino confused some Arctic Monkeys fans, but there are moments of simple pleasure amid the opacity, not least One Point Perspective’s satire on the jaded rock star: “ I’m Gonna Run to the government / I’m going to form a cover band and that’s it.’
17. Arabella (2013)
By the end of the 1990s, Turner’s works were filled with lust. Arabella is the ultimate example of him in dazzling lover mode – he somehow gets away with turning the object of his attention to his “little lady”. The Black Sabbath-esque guitar riffs of the chorus (reminiscent of War Pigs in particular) are superb.
16. Riot Van (2006)
Riot Van offers a brilliant framing of teenage angst, telling the story of a teenager’s run-in with the police to music that sounds like a sigh or an uncertain shrug. A shorter, more lyrical version can be heard from their widely distributed collection of early demos Beneath the Boardwalk.
15. Only Those Who Know (2007)
Favorite Worst Nightmare is by far the most uneven Arctic Monkeys album; you can hear the effort put into trying to move on from their record debut. But sometimes they succeed in style: Only One Who Know is a gentle, affectionate picture of a couple in love with a beautiful melody.
14. She Looks Fun (2018)
Social media is a sickening subject, but – backed by the sound of AM-era Arctic Monkeys falling to pieces – Turner’s take is funny, original and contains one of the great aphorisms of the Instagram era: “Dance like someone’s watching, because they’re watching.”
13. Why do you only call me when you’re high? (2013)
Arctic Monkeys’ most consistent and powerful album since their debut, AM drew attention for its guitar-heavy sound, but the main influence on Why’d You Only Call Me … is clearly R&B – its staccato has a distinct hint of Destiny’s Child’s opening zero riffs. An unlikely inspiration, perhaps, but it works.
12. Suck and Watch (2011)
“You’re rarer than a jar of dandelions and burdock / And those other girls are just lemonade after the mix,” Turner sings triumphantly on a song that, just as triumphantly, blends in with a melody found in the lighthearted songs of the late ’60s – listening to a pop hit with a lot of treble echoing with guitars.
11. I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor (2006)
The brilliance of I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor may lie in the dissonance between the tone of the lyrics – ironically detached, even as they eye a girl at the local indie club – and the tone of the music, which sounds like – said club night at its frenzy.
10. Star Treatment (2018)
With the most striking opening line on Tranquility Base – “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes,” Turner sings, probably autobiographically, “and now look what a mess you made me make” – Star Treatment’s music and arrangement pay homage to Pet Sounds Beach Boys, it’s ambitious and totally successful.
9. Mardy Bam (2006)
Turner began his career impersonating the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas before realizing that singing the way he spoke – with a Yorkshire accent – was far more original and effective. Which brings us to an utterly adorable, slang-filled saga of relationship strife that wouldn’t be half as impressive in a faux-American stretch.
8. That’s Where You’re Wrong (2011)
Arctic Monkeys are good at grand finales: each of their albums has a great closing track. Suck It and See is no exception. The guitars alternate between ringing and shimmering, the bass amping everything up, the lyrics seeming to switch between celebrating a new romance and mourning a lost one.
7. Cornerstone (2009)
A strong contender for the greatest Arctic Monkeys song ever released, Cornerstone’s greatness lies more in the sheer magnificence of its melody – and indeed its guitar solo – than Turner’s words, although there are some fantastic lines: “I felt your smell on the seat belt.’
6. The Fluorescent Teen (2007)
Turner checked the name of John Cooper Clarke and Jake Thackray as influences, but Fluorescent Adolescent suggested that, like Morrissey around Meat Is Murder, he also turned to the songwriting of the late Victoria Wood. It’s easy to imagine her singing an empathetic, beautifully observed portrayal of a former party girl grappling with middle age.
5. My RU? (2012)
The first sign that their fifth album will be higher, RU Mine? it’s AM in microcosm. Huge, distorted riffs, thunderous drums, lyrics – it’s a bright cluster of pop culture images, referencing everything from Sandy Shaw to the Thunderbirds.
4. Afternoon View (2006)
“Waiting has a habit of setting you up for disappointment” is a line to kick off a long-awaited debut album. Rather than living up to expectations, the highly addictive The View from the Afternoon – jagged guitars, frenzied drums, brilliantly lyrical reflection of the hours before the big night out – only fulfills them.
3. 505 (2007)
505’s belated progression from an overlooked album track to one of Arctic Monkeys’ most popular songs – especially among listeners too young to remember its original release – is fascinating. Obviously, TikTok played a role, but so did the quality of the song: chords borrowed from Ennio Morricone, and a beautiful understated melancholy.
2. Do I want to know? (2013)
Do I want to know? swagger with the confidence of a band who know they’ve unexpectedly reached a new peak 10 years into their career. Footage from this year’s Reading Festival, where a crowd of teenagers sing along to Do I Wanna Know’s lyrics as well as the guitar riff, highlights just how powerful a beast the latter is.
1. A Certain Romance (2006)
That Turner was still a teenager when he wrote “A Certain Romance” is evidence of a supernatural lyrical gift. No song more effectively demonized “chav” in the early 2000s. It’s also a brilliantly constructed piece, the tone of which takes a sudden 180-degree turn in the last verse: everything you think he’s saying is something he’s not. But it’s also something that only a teenager could write; he’s not talking about a social phenomenon from afar, he’s just talking about kids he knows from school. Meanwhile, the music behind him ebbs and flows heavily on the way to its roaring instrumental climax.