NEW YORK, NY—It wasn’t the scent of burning grass that filled the rafters at Hammerstein Ballroom, but rather it was the stumble of a wee too many pints at the corner pub that set the overtone for an evening of pulsating British rock. Strolling into NYC after a mind-numbing string of American traveling dates that made stops on both coasts and a major festival in the span of about two weeks, the Arctic Monkeys seemed almost un-phased under the glow of the country’s brightest spotlight.
With the sounds of a Yiddish waltz echoing throughout the air the young lads from Sheffield, England, emerged looking very clean cut and freshly shaven as they began their exhibition of selections off their sophomore platter of compositions entitled Favourite Worst Nightmare.
Their tone is shattering as it weighs heavy on the chest. With crunch laden guitar work being provided from Alex Turner (guitar/vox) and Jamie Cook (guitar), the Monkeys blazed through a jolting rotation of new cuts and freshman album classics. From the call and response of “Still Take You Home,” through the hooks of “Dancing Shoes,” the band delivered brawn as a beam of light reflected off of Cook’s scarlet Gibson 355. The English sentiment was thick as Turner strutted up to the microphone with a facial expression that embodied one Liam Gallagher and addressed the crowd with a quick flirtatious phrase, “I really like you all.”
With Turner and Cook tonally soaring above the rest of the band the drum work of Matt Helders (drums) is standing out as being particularly meaty. Pinpoint accurate, heavy on the low end, and relaxed, almost as if he is channeling the on-stage presence of a seasoned Steve Gorman while attempting to tackle John Bonham’s tonal tonnage.
In an interview the day after Coachella, while rummaging around the back hallways of the Warfield in San Francisco, Matt Helders graciously provides comment on the band’s musical direction and what inspires his work as a drummer.
“I was obsessed with the drummer from The Hives for quite a long time before we made it,” he explains. “That is all we would really listen to was The Strokes and The Hives. I would try to do everything like The Hives’ drummer, even down to how I set up my kit. The older I got though, the more I got into John Bonham.
“We did a few weeks of recording in London and then took a break in the countryside before going back for another block session. It took us about three months to record it, just not solid,” in reference to Favourite Worst Nightmare, “and then we put the finishing touches on it in Liverpool.”
“The first record we did pretty quick,” he offers. “This time around was probably a little more traditional approach with more writing in the studio. We were on tour for quite a while, so this record is more about girls, friends, and all of the people that we have met along the way.”
New York is fully embracing the Arctic Monkeys’ seduction as the pit uncontrollably sways with the fervor of a sea of rock-n-roll deliverance. From the side balcony inconspicuously gazes a very scruffy looking Albert Hammond Jr. and Strokes’ manager Ryan Gentles upon the shimmering fanfare.
The mellow composition of “Riot Van” followed with Turner depicting a tale of underage drinking and teenage rebellion while the venue recharged before they were leveled as the band launched into “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor.”
Showcased selections off the new recording included “Brainstorm,” “Teddy Picker,” “Fluorescent Adolescent” and “Old Yellow Bricks.”
What is the most shocking about this ensemble is their age. They are old 20. Critics can write what they want about the Arctic Monkeys in their infant state, but what will be the real test of their musical merit and contributions will come once they have matured, like a fine bottle of wine. The foundation has been laid and their potential is unspeakable.