4 Early Arctic Monkeys Tracks You Might Have Missed
They've released 5 number one albums, sold out arenas all over the world, opened the Olympics, won a shit-load of awards and perhaps most importantly, written songs which will forever be ingrained in to the cultural fabric of a generation; the Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since forming in 2002.
Whilst the band's singles have always been of amazing quality, it's difficult now to appreciate just how good some of them are, mainly because they've been played to death by the DJ at your local indie night every weekend since late 2006 (The "Mr Brightside effect"). Fortunately, like a lot of great bands before them, the Sheffield lads have plenty of hidden gems to be found amongst their demos and B-sides.
- Beneath The Boardwalk - 2004
The year is 2004. Ronaldo has just sent England home early from the Euros with a playful wink and reserved himself a special place deep within the fieriest depths of Hell. The Government have taken the decision to ban Fox Hunting; posh wankers everywhere lose their minds. A litre of petrol costs about 75p. Nathasha Beddingfield (remember her?) is still a thing.
Amidst all this, music fans around England are going nuts about a band from Sheffield called The Arctic Monkeys and 17 tracks which the band burned on to CDs and distributed at gigs. Space Invaders is one of those tracks.
Even back in those days, when most people thought file-sharing was just a way of saving desk space, the tracks spread across the internet like wildfire, particularly through forums, like Dancing Jesus. The name, Beneath The Boardwalk, wasn't chosen by the band, but instead was just what the first person to upload the tracks named the files, after the venue where he'd received the CD (the Boardwalk in Sheffield).
Several tracks from that CD were later re-recorded and released, unfortunately Space Invaders was amongst the songs left behind. It's snarling riff and heavier vibe seem to foreshadow the sound which the band have recently adopted on AM, in fact at about 2 minutes in you can hear a riff which sounds like it may well be an early version of the solo from Arabella.
Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend - Brianstorm - 2007
The fact this song was only used as a B-side to Brianstorm, and not released as a single in it's own right is kind of baffling, not just because at the time The Arctics and Dizzee Rascal were two of the biggest names in UK music, but also because it's a cracking tune.
Turner's lyrics are relatable as ever, as he talks about that someone who you know you shouldn't, but you really, really, want to. "Keep your charm where I can't see it, and your hands where I can" he warns his mystery enchantress, over a jagged and jaunty riff. Perhaps though it's Dizzee who steals the show with his verse, which is much more Boy in Da Corner than Bonkers and reminds us of a time, way before Calvin Harris collaborations and cheesy-pop beats, when he was actually cool.
- Leave Before the Lights Come On - 2006
Written for Barbara Lewis by the great Van McCoy in the early 60's and covered by many different artists since then, including Jody Miller, Cher and, of course, The Artic Monkeys (I'd imagine that's the only context in which the Artic Monkeys and Cher have ever been grouped together), Baby I'm Yours is just about the sweetest love song you could imagine.
As if Turner's silky-smooth croon wasn't enough, the band enlisted Oisin Leech to provide vocals for the second verse. Leech was the lead singer of a Liverpool band called the 747's. You could certainly be forgiven for never having heard of them, despite a really promising first album (Zampano, check it out) and support slots for big names like The Strokes and The Raconteurs, they split in 2007 after only two years together.
- I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor - 2005
Another song which featured on the "Beneath the Boardwalk" CD, Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts was later released as the B-side to one of the biggest indie-rock songs of recent history; I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor. It's an all too relatable tale, masterfully told by a young Alex Turner, about the kind of older lads we all knew; who had jobs, and cars and, unfortunately for those of us still in uniform, a penchant for the girls our age.
Today, it's fair to say that Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts sounds a little rough around the edges, especially compared to the band's more recent offerings. In many ways, it's a pretty basic song, with a simple riff and a structure no different to countless other songs by countless other bands, but it's the subtle differences which really make it so great. Matt Helder's signature, slightly-offbeat rhythms and Turner & Cook's dual guitar parts are endearingly simple, and effective. They sound like a band still mastering their trade, but the raw natural talent they posses is obvious.