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D Is For Dangerous
Only Ones Who Know
Do Me A Favour
This House Is A Circus
If You Were There, Beware
The Bad Thing
Old Yellow Bricks
If ever an album would be under the intense microscope of scrutiny, it is going to be this one. After making the most successful, fastest selling, highly appraised album in the known universe (and possibly unknown universe too) there's the pesky matter of the follow up. Beat the difficult second album syndrome, or be consigned to the one album wonder dump bin for future music historians. That the critics and public alike salivated over "Whatever People Say I Am" was a rare double. OK, some musos resented the Monkeys' instant fame, and other bands made albums that were arguably better anyway, but these were the scallies that changed the musical landscape in 2006.
To have a sound, a musical identity, in this day and age is admirable, and you can tell this is the Sheffield Four from the first few beats or certainly by the first time that Alex Turner opens his big mouth. "Brainstorm" is a huge opener, and once you get past the wall of guitars, and into the frantic SKA rhythms, you're already absorbed. It bullies you into submission, then "Teddy Picker" and "D Is For Dangerous" continue that take-no-prisoners, bellicose, no-brainer, style. Yes there are moments of caustic wit that made the last album special ("D is for delightful, and trying to keep your trousers on"), but not quite enough. So far not bad, but you don't want a whole album like this. Just as well then, as it isn't.
"Balaclava" is equally intense, but the imagery is getting more vivid. The lyrical pictures mesh into the sonic valleys, with the real world seeping through. Now they are starting to perform. As a title, "Fluorescent Adolescent" is marvellous, but the reminiscing from the female perspective is even better. ("You used to get it in your fishnets / now you only get it in your nightdress".) Super.
Vocally Alex Turner is never going to win X Factor or American Idol, but the true feeling that drips through his words is exceptional. Unafraid to expose his imperfection, "Only Ones Who Know" is the most proudly downbeat track they've made. It gets better. "Do Me A Favour" kicks off with a belting 80's styled Pigbag-esque drum beat, but it's when the outrageously infectious guitar riffs come in, and Turner weaves another tale of latter day depression that their level of mastery dawns.
Did we say 80's? The intro to "This House Is A Circus" is prime Specials, even if the rest of the track reverts to being loud and listless. "If You Were There Beware" keeps it bouncy and nicely vintage, even if their trademark stop / start mid track might wear a little thin soon. Sheer power, laced with a brash affront is theirs too, and the easy romp that is "The Bad Thing" also stands out as natural brilliance. Simply huge without seemingly trying. "Old Yellow Bricks" again combines the hard edge and lyrical perception that is another of their cunning traits. Some nifty guitar lines too. Then they leave you with the supremely bare and marvellously exposed love song that is "505". You are already gagging for the next album, and praying that they can do that in 15 months too.
It was going to be a mountain to climb to even approach the impact of their debut, but somehow they've managed to get to somewhere near the summit and are waving two fingers at us all. Will it be the best album of 2007? Probably not, but do they still deserve the frenzied attention as being the cheekiest little buggers in music undoubtedly yes. Now they've truly proved themselves as well worthy and eminently listenable, even if they ultimately aren't groundbreaking. Just as the Sex Pistols weren't a proficient band but were a real icon of 1977, so this is the age of the Monkeys. They touched a nerve last year, and this year they continue to tweak it.