Let's face it. It's almost impossible to talk about this album without mentioning the Strokes. Alex Turner and crew wanted nothing more than to be the next indie rock legends; wearing their hearts on their sleeves and looking down on others only because the industry told them they should. It would never come to be, as they only garnered "new britpop" notoriety as they released a hodgepodge of anti-poser anthems on Whatever People Say I Am... - their observational lyrics and freeform songwriting came off more as something badass rather than timeless.
Maybe timeless is the wrong word; these songs have held up to the test of time and the band even declined to remaster the album when it was given the royal treatment on their Vinyl Me, Please pressing. That's confidence. And their tales of bouncers, wannabes, pimps, and their prostitutes live to this day as a dirty testament in urban life. The honesty stems from their boyish youth. Just months before the release of this album they were writing about girls and their douchebag boyfriends. Now they were writing about crooked cops and unprepared musicians. Arctic Monkeys were prepared for fame but still, little did they know their rejection of clubs would land them gigs on stages too big for most indoor venues.
But back to what the album actually means. The clean flourishes throughout are fantastic juxtaposed to the grimy lyrics describing "dickheads", "vampires", and "scumbags". If you don't get the album art, it's essentially a man a few drinks in at an early Arctic Monkeys show. For young Alex Turner and crew, the engorging drive to stick it to bootlickers is tantamount to wrecking conmen's exploitation. Arctic Monkeys would never again reach this level of purpose in songwriting; but this album remains, sure of itself and everyone else around it.
Containing thirteen tracks including the hit single "I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor", Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is a remarkable modern British debut. The first album from Sheffield-based rockers, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history.
The album includes both tracks from the band's original EP, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys, as well as their first two singles and UK number ones, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and "When the Sun Goes Down". It is often cited as one of the best rock albums of its decade.
Musically, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not features indie rock, garage rock revival, post-punk revival, and punk rock. The common thematic content of the album has led to it being considered by some a concept album concerning "the lives of young Northern England clubbers".
Cover artwork of the album is a photo of Chris McClure—a close friend of the band, frontman of The Violet May and brother of Jon McClure of Reverend and The Makers—taken in the early hours of the morning in Korova bar, Liverpool after the band had given him, his cousin and his best friend "seventy quid to spend on a night out". The image caused some controversy when Laurence Gruer of NHS Scotland criticised the cover for "reinforcing the idea that smoking is okay". The band's product manager denied the accusation, and in fact suggested the opposite: "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good." Billboard advertisements for the album used a similar image to the cover picture, but without the cigarette.
A1 The View From The Afternoon
A2 I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
A3 Fake Tales Of San Francisco
A4 Dancing Shoes
A5 You Probably Couldn't See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me
A6 Still Take You Home
B1 Riot Van
B2 Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured
B3 Mardy Bum
B4 Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But..
B5 When The Sun Goes Down
B6 From The Ritz To The Rubble
B7 A Certain Romance
Catalogue Number: WIGLP162
Record Label: Domino Records.
Includes printed inner sleeve with photos and credits.
Heavy weight vinyl.