When Arctic Monkeys emerged onto the British post-punk revival scene back in 2005, they quickly became darlings to critics and audiences alike. The band’s inaugural album, Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, set a record and became the fastest selling debut album in the UK with over 350,000 copies sold in just one week.
Honestly, this shouldn’t be surprising information. Few bands are able to do what the Arctic Monkeys accomplished with their debut album — to reach out to and connect with a broad, international audience with an album that focuses on a niche topic all without seeming hackneyed. I got wind of this band in early high school after one of my favorite actors mentioned them in an interview, and despite never having been to the U.K., I felt as if I’d lived in Sheffield, England all of my life by the second listen through the album.
“A Certain Romance,” the final (and perhaps most underrated) track on Whatever People Say I Am, is a perfect example of how the Arctic Monkeys were able to take that album and make it a captivating tour guide of their relatively mundane, lower-middle class hometown experience. True, the song doesn’t have the instant dance-worthiness of “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” or make the naked appeal to the emotions that “When The Sun Goes Down” does. But it doesn’t take take long to grow on you and make you feel like it was written about you, your crappy but kitschy small town and your dickhead friends who you can’t help but love.
I never get tired of this song. The frantic drumbeat and rapid-fire guitar chords in the intro amp me up every time, and I love the way the song devolves into a bouncy ska-influenced hook. That’s not even to mention Alex Turner’s voice, who sings with a sense of bittersweet frustration that perfectly reflects what’s going on in the lyrics.
“A Certain Romance” is ultimately a lovely but reluctant ode to questionable roots, one that should speak to anyone going through a transitional period in their life. You can’t forget where you came from, but this song proves that sometimes that’s not such a bad thing after all.