Arctic Monkeys, 'Whatever People Say I Am...'

The Clash Essential 50, in a nutshell: the 50 greatest, most significant, downright brilliant albums of Clash’s lifetime. We need them, which means you, too, most probably need them.

Why? Clash celebrates its fifth birthday in April. It’s not an anniversary to make too much of a fuss about – we’ll save that for our tenth, thank you very much – but worth marking all the same. And what better way to look forward to the next few years of Clash than a look back at some of our ‘greatest hits’.

The Clash Essential 50 was compiled by the core Clash editorial team – should you disagree with any of our selections, which will be counted down throughout April, you know where to go to have your own opinion heard.

For the top ten, we’re focusing on one album at a time – the best of the best needs its own space. Catch up with numbers 50 to 11 via the links below…


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Arctic Monkeys, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’
(2006; Domino)

From the clashing guitar chords, rippling bassline and disco-drum patterns of ‘A View from the Afternoon’, the world gawped open mouthed at four Sheffield lads known as Arctic Monkeys.

“Anticipation has a habit to set you up / Tonight there’ll be a ruckus regardless of what’s gone before,” spits Alex Turner with shades of poet hero John Cooper Clarke, before taking in “bunny-eared and devil-horned girls” hanging out of a cheap limo. The three-second drop out at 2:15 points to a band capable of intricate instrumentation to augment Turner’s clever Northern yearnings.

Indie-disco staples ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, ‘Mardy Bum’, ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ and ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ were successful charters, but the fresh-faced vigour and verve of songs around them make this album essential.

Take the nightclubbing escapades of ‘Dancing Shoes’, the rock dirge of ‘Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But…’ and the bouncer-baiting ‘From The Ritz to the Rubble’, a song which reeks of urban decay: “This towns a different town to what it was last night,” barks the frontman. We all know of, or maybe even live in, a town like this.

The Top Shop girl gloating ‘Still Take You Home’ remains a live favourite, Turner excelling lyrically yet again: “I don’t think you’re special or think you’re cool / You’re most probably alreet / But under these lights you look beautiful / I’m struggling to see through your fake tan.” Musically it’s a revelation, biting guitars combining with Matt Helders’ pounding drums and vocal shouts.

‘Riot Van’, a warm, delicate bridge for side two, tells of alcohol-fuelled run ins with the Sheffield constabulary, while ‘Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured’ takes in taxi rides with bent drivers, cash machine queue scraps and losing a girl to a Smirnoff Ice-drinking heavy.

Only the tepid ‘You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights but You Were Staring at Me’ (unusually emo-styled title to boot) shows songwriting naivety, but we can forgive one bad call out of 13. Closer ‘A Certain Romance’ is arguably their finest moment; where melody and Turner’s plucky, escapist rhymes carve a terrace anthem, perfect for bellowing out with the lads after a few cans.

Tales of sexy little swines, northern nights out, scummy men and alcopop girls had never been so potent or zeitgeist straddling as this.

Words: Alistair Beech

Arctic Monkeys – ‘A View From The Afternoon’

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The Clash Essential 50 so far…

50: The Killers, ‘Hot Fuss’
49: Kasabian, ‘Kasabian’
48: Deerhunter, ‘Microcastle’
47: Bat For Lashes, ‘Fur and Gold’
46: Vampire Weekend, ‘Vampire Weekend’
45: MGMT, ‘Oracular Spectacular’
44: Portishead, ‘Third’
43: Elbow, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’
42: Amy Winehouse, ‘Back To Black’
41: Santigold, ‘Santigold’
40: Late Of The Pier, ‘Fantasy Black Channel’
39: Sigur Rós, ‘Takk…’
38: Efterklang, ‘Parades’
37: Liars, ‘Drum’s Not Dead’
36: The White Stripes, ‘Get Behind Me Satan’
35: Hot Chip, ‘The Warning’
34: Fleet Foxes, ‘Fleet Foxes’
33: Benga, ‘Diary Of An Afro Warrior’
32: Feist, ‘The Reminder’
31: Broadcast, ‘Tender Buttons’
30: Battles, ‘Mirrored’
29: Klaxons, ‘Myths Of The Near Future’
28: Tunng, ‘Mother’s Daughter And Other Songs’
27: The Libertines, ‘The Libertines’
26: Kanye West, ‘The College Dropout’
25: Apparat, ‘Walls’
24: Burial, ‘Burial’
23: Gallows, ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’
22: Caribou, ‘The Milk Of Human Kindness’
21: Broken Social Scene, ‘Broken Social Scene’
20: Sufjan Stevens, ‘Illinois’
19: Soulwax, ‘Nite Versions’
18: The Bug, ‘London Zoo’
17: Brian Wilson, ‘SMiLE’
16: Isolée, ‘We Are Monster’
15: My Morning Jacket, ‘Z’
14: Franz Ferdinand, ‘Franz Ferdinand’
13: Joanna Newsom, ‘Ys’
12: Modeselektor, ‘Hello Mom!’
11: Bloc Party, ‘Silent Alarm’
10: Animal Collective, 'Merriweather Post Pavilion'
9: J Dilla, ‘Donuts’
8: Arctic Monkeys, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’

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