Released in 2007, Arctic Monkeys’s Favourite Worst Nightmare is a recollection of a night out, a sly dig at the trappings of fame, and a teary confession of naïve love that wasn’t meant to be. Forming the second album of their discography, FWN defines a tension in growing up, an age without the serenading eloquence of Suck it and See or the matured confidence of AM, but one so keenly aware of the ‘joie de vivre’ in the simplicity and carefreeness encapsulated in Whatever People say I am. (The introspective Humbug defies any attempt at labelling it).
Kick-starting the album with the breathless track ‘Brianstorm’, frontman and lyricist Alex Turner launches into a running narrative of an individual who might as well be called Zarathustra. “Brian” seems to break the proverbial mould, as he leaves “hundreds of blokes” weeping, after their ladies tell him to “use me”. Indeed, as anyone who had to spend time around the Beit Quad soon finds, an undercurrent of despairing lust runs beneath the deceptive surface. In ‘D is for Dangerous’, Turner observes, with equal parts disgust and schadenfreude, how the lads talk their partner into taking the ‘D’ whilst “trying to keep their trousers on”.
The ladies, for their part, are not as innocent as they look, as they ‘“take off their wedding ring”, and whisper “it’s red wine this time” to their man for the night. In the frenzy of disguised gentility and feigned innocence, Alex Turner imploringly cries that you won’t find fulfilment in these desperate quarters, just as a detective won’t find his suspect “in a pair of dead man’s eyes”. Between the unflinching lyricism and Matt Helders’ impeccable drumming, listeners would find that Favourite Worst Nightmare is not so much a glorification of any paint-by-number kit for love, as it is itself a search for the ineffable, lost and heartfelt. From the teary plead in ‘Do Me A Favour’ where Turner asks for no-pulled-punches in the demise of a relationship, (“Perhaps fuck off might be too kind”), to the snarl at gossipers to leave his past lover alone in ‘If You Were There, Beware’, the album closes on ‘505’, the emotional depth of which most assuredly propels the band into Rock History. Backed up by an atmospheric organ, Turner paints a portrait of a girl waiting for her weary traveller behind door “505”, calm and knowing with “her hands between her thighs”. Another gem is ‘Only Ones Who Know’, a naked confession and lonely testament to the existence of Capital-t True love, its voice cold and broken like Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, its crescendo sure and unerring as King Solomon’s ‘Song of Songs’.
Fiercely subversive and breathlessly frenetic, Favourite Worst Nightmare is an impassioned take on growing up, losing a fight, as we all do, in capturing the present against the uncompromising passage of time, where we trade “all the naughty nights’” for ‘niceness’. Or, in the words of a certain poet, to “play it fucking loud” one last time.