The Arctic Monkeys rocketed into the public consciousness in 2005, fueled by an explosion concocted by mixing music company hype and word-of-mouth Internet viral marketing. As their popularity increased and their punk edge dulled to more mainstream tastes, the British rockers saw their first major release single I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor debut at #1 on the British charts.
Their ascent may seem as fast and furious as The Beatles’, but Arctic Monkeys are much more influenced by The Clash or The Smiths than by the Fab Four. Still, the British music press, notorious for hyping every new act as the Second Coming of The Beatles had already anointed the Monkeys as they had done with Oasis a decade earlier. That attention led to the Monkeys scoring higher than any British band in its first week of a major album release.
The lack of a front man such as The Smiths’ Morrissey and failure to break into mainstream American radio continues to hold the young British band back despite a #1 showing on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. Vocalist Alex Turner leads the band’s first album, Whatever People Say, I Am Not, to a respectable #24 on the U.S. charts, but Arctic Monkeys have not yet made the leap to stardom and Turner is not Morrissey or even Liam Gallagher.
A U.S. club tour in the summer of 2006 was only one of the many contradictions the band presents. None of the quartet are legally allowed to drink in the United States, but they are no stranger to self-promotion, and clubs are the place to do just that. Only several years removed from high school, the band’s following started on the Internet, and the publicity flames were fanned by the band encouraging fans to share its music by giving away free CDs to people who showed at their gigs.
With celebrity fans — notably Steven Van Zandt during his radio show and regular Billboard columns — and a press gone gaga for their sound, these Monkeys are nowhere near the cheese that a 1960s version of The Monkees inflicted on music. Now only time will tell if the British music press has once again oversold a band or if Arctic Monkeys have staying power. At least until they can legally drink a beer.