15 years on: How ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ defined a generation

Fifteen years after its release, Amrit Virdi reflects on the enduring impact of Arctic Monkeys’ debut record, Whatever People Say I am, That's What I’m Not, and how it laid the foundations for one of the UK’s most successful alternative rock bands.

In the fifteen years since the release of their life-affirming debut record, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Sheffield rock quartet Arctic Monkeys have established a prestigious position in the music industry. Millions of fans around the world have fallen for their authentic, homegrown rock sound, and supported them throughout their ever-growing musical experimentation. In recent years this has led the band to pivot into an abstract and brooding era of self-awareness with the 2018 release of Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino.

A statement album reminiscent of mosh-pits and woven with a relatable narrative that defined a generation, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is an unforgettable commencement to an incredible career. The record quickly became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history following its 2006 release, shifting over 360,000 copies in its first week. With a brutally honest examination of Northern nightlife, the record gloriously captures a moment in time with no frills or unnecessary metaphorical lyricism.

‘Whilst they may be far from the angsty grunge of their 2006 release, authentic musicality has never been never sacrificed.’

If anything, the stark realism of standout tracks such as Still Take You Home and I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor have spiked in relevance since their release. And this authentic sentiment true to the band’s Sheffield roots still lives on fifteen years later. The iconic face of the album, Chris McClure, brother of Reverend And The Makers’ Jon McClure, has since reflected on its release, tweeting that it was a “pleasure to be associated with it.” He defined its excellence with a simple, “what a record”, whilst emphasizing the respect that the band has amassed over the years.

Era to era, Arctic Monkeys never fail to generate a buzz amongst their eager fans as they return each time with a record exuding a more decisive air of maturity than their last. The lurid early anthem, When The Sun Goes Down, for example, feels worlds away from the sleaze and scuzz of 2018’s Four Out Of Five. Whilst they may be far from the angsty grunge of their 2006 release, authentic musicality has never been sacrificed, with frontman Alex Turner still playing to his Northern accent despite the emerging American influences slowly creeping into the mix. They also still hail heavily to their earlier influences on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, opening the 2018 record with the lyric, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes,” on the dynamic stream-of-consciousness-like singings of Star Treatment.

After 2011’s release of Suck it and See, which combined the heavy elements that the band had become known for with a softer, melodic tone (see tracks like Piledriver Waltz), their return with the sultry, rock-inspired AM was a surprising but welcomed affair. It quickly came to be amongst their most successful full-lengths to date, spawning hits like the anthemic Arabella and R U Mine? Even resonating with the youth of today, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? found its way onto TikTok, emphasizing the longevity of the band as they sought to separate themselves from the tumultuous teens that curated the 2006 debut.

Being nominated for five Grammy’s and winning seven Brit Awards throughout their acclaimed career (who can forget the iconic rock’n’roll speech of 2014), Arctic Monkeys continue to provide their die-hard fans with impeccable and cohesive records to this day, albeit with the tracks being unpredictable and slightly more experimental each time. And with drummer Matt Helders recently confirming that the wheels are in motion for their seventh studio album, there is no doubt that fans across the world are eager to see what is coming next from the seminal quartet.

Written by: Amrit Virdi

Edited by: Alex Duke

Featured image courtesy of Radio X via Facebook. Article image courtesy of Arctic Monkeys via Facebook.