On Oct. 21, Arctic Monkeys are releasing The Car, their seventh studio album, making this fall the perfect time to get into the staple alternative rock band. Here’s everything you need to know about their previous albums if you want to become a certified fan of my favorite little band from Sheffield.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
The one you probably know: “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”
The second on the album, this song’s focus on dancing and club culture expertly taps into the 2000s teen zeitgeist that characterizes this whole album. It’s no wonder I still see people wearing T-shirts with reference to its lyrics at Arctic Monkeys concerts over a decade after the album’s release.
Song to start with: “When the Sun Goes Down”
This track is a perfect entry point into Arctic Monkeys’ special brand of grimy garage rock. After a slow, pared-back beginning, the song catapults into an energetic drum beat similar to others across the album. The musicality and lyricism on display familiarize you with what sort of world you’re going to be dealing with for the next 13 songs—it’s grungy, it’s raw, and it’s “all not quite legitimate.”
Overlooked gem: “You Probably Couldn’t See for the Lights But You Were Staring Straight at Me”
Instantly relatable to anyone who’s tried (and failed) to flirt at a loud party or club, the lyrics are refreshingly innocent. The youthful awkwardness described here by a freshly 20-year-old Alex Turner can’t help but seem sweet, especially when compared to the hardened exterior of the rest of the album.
Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
The one you probably know: “Fluorescent Adolescent”
It’s the most recognizable song off the album (though, interestingly, not Spotify’s most popular—that’s “505”), and for good reason. Fast-paced with an addictive beat, the song bears punchy lyrics that roll off the tongue with just the right amount of Britishisms for the Sheffield band (it’s one of the few songs I know with an earnest use of the word “daft”).
Song to start with: “Do Me a Favour”
“Do Me a Favour” perfectly taps into the almost paradoxical nature of Favourite Worst Nightmare, an album simultaneously more aggressive yet more relaxed than Arctic Monkeys’ debut, which was much more tied to their garage rock sound and less emotionally varied. This song mirrors this natural but noticeable shift beautifully. This selection proves that the band didn’t have to drop their iconic aggressive energy you’ve come to know and love to fit in with the more mature sound of FWN.
Overlooked gem: “The Bad Thing”
This song might not have anything too deep to say, but that doesn’t make it any less of a banger. It’s a fun snapshot of a moment in which the singer is propositioned by a taken woman, with some general thoughts on infidelity sprinkled in for good measure. This song sounds great—intense and rock-y to its core. Lyrics that move at a breakneck speed make singing along a challenge, but you’ll undoubtedly be proud of yourself the first time you’re able to get through all two and a half minutes without missing a word.
The one you probably know: “Crying Lightning”
The iconic edgy girl anthem. She is attractive. She is aloof. She is slightly unhinged. Either you want to be her, you want to be with her, or you’re slightly too mentally stable for this and might want to find a different band tbh.
Song to start with: “My Propellor”
It’s the first song on the album, and that’s not an accident. While “My Propellor” is not the most interesting or complex song off Humbug, it’s an undeniable earworm with lyrics that are easy to remember and sing along with in the chorus without sacrificing any of Alex Turner’s intricate songwriting in the verses. (Also, I know how the lyrics sound, but it’s not about his dick you guys; I promise it isn’t).
Overlooked gem: “The Jeweller’s Hand”
Genius says this song is about an affair, and maybe it is, but the obscurity of the exact subject is part of what makes this track so good. Turner’s lyrics, packed with his specific poetic, inscrutable style, could just as easily apply to any misguided, too-intense pursuit. This welcome ambiguity brings to this song the disorienting, haunting feeling that is one of the most enjoyable and iconic parts of Humbug.
Suck It and See (2011)
The one you probably know: “Suck It and See”
It’s the album’s title track, so it’s no wonder it’s the most well-known. This album has a gentler, slower rock tone compared to others in their discography, and this track continues this trend. No need for alarm, though; it’s got enough cool alternative imagery to still feel appropriately rebellious for Arctic Monkeys.
Song to start with: “Black Treacle”
This song is an excellent bridge between the early edgy Arctic Monkeys sound and the album’s milder tone. The images conjured are as dark as Humbug’s, both literally (black treacle is, after all, black) and figuratively (poetic lyrics tell the story of loving a drug addict). Its softer musicality, though, adds a level of approachability which faithfully represents the rest of Suck It and See.
Overlooked gem: “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala”
On its surface, the smile-inducing “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” might appear to be a straightforward earnest love song, a rare departure for the band. But in classic Arctic Monkeys style, the love interest has questionable intentions and the romance can’t be counted on! The profound sadness of the song’s romantic troubles coupled with the flowing, seemingly affectionate musical style makes it more than interesting enough to be worth a listen.
The one you probably know: “Do I Wanna Know?”
I don’t need to explain this one. You’ve heard it, you love it, you get the idea.
Song to start with: “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”
Though not as popular as “Do I Wanna Know?,” this song is also well-known even outside of the band’s fan base, and for good reason. Catchy and with easily recalled lyrics, it’s an easy entrypoint even if other Arctic Monkeys songs aren’t your speed, but with just the right amount of retro-style sleaziness to match the vibe of the album.
Overlooked gem: “Fireside”
It is a crime that this is one of their least streamed tracks. Despite treading the worn ground of breakup songs, the song invokes careful imagery on display here, leaving the track fresh. It’s relatable to people who have had their hearts broken without bringing down the tone musically (I love it despite being a noted Slow Song Hater). Additionally, I love this song’s foray into rockabilly stylings with its little “shoo-wops”; every time I hear it, I wind up singing it all day.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)
The one you probably know: “Four Out of Five”
Tranquility Base‘s lead single, “Four Out of Five” is a lot of people’s (read: my) favorite song on the album. Taking inspiration more from glam rock than some of the other ’70s influences on the LP, it offers a bridge to existing Arctic Monkeys fans who came and stayed for the rock, while still following Tranquility Base’s stylistic divergence.
Song to start with: “Star Treatment”
Coming back after a five-year break (which felt even longer considering their previous rapid-fire album-release rate), Tranquility Base changed a lot about the band’s style—and “Star Treatment” is a great gateway. Its very first lines, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes / Now look at the mess you made me make,” tell you exactly what kind of rock-star stylings you’re in for. It’s a song narrated by the washed-up ’70s rockstar character, which perfectly sets you up for the sauve-to-the-point-of-sleaze ’70s influence throughout the whole album.
Overlooked gem: “One Point Perspective”
Look, I will be honest: I’m not a huge fan of this album, but even I have a begrudging respect for this song. Any fan of Turner’s lyrical style has plenty to work with here; his ambiguity and poetry are turned up to 11. It also has a noticeable instance of Yorkshire slang that calls to mind a similar moment on “Do I Wanna Know?” and reminds listeners that, though Turner has been living in LA for many years now, Arctic Monkeys haven’t forgotten their roots as the teenage British rock band behind Whatever People Say I Am.