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This record wholeheartedly captures the current essence of the despair UK kids feel approaching dead-end jobs and cheaply living out their excitement through uninhibited dancing, momentary love, getting pissed, starting rows and any other form of temporary escapism available. The stark accompanying artwork only supports this — no band pictures, just dreary, gray-hued urban England in all its scummy glory.

The Arctic Monkeys embody everything that's interesting about England. From the four-blokes-given-instruments-as-Christmas-presents way they formed to the delicious flicker of a Sheffield accent — it's no fluke that this album debuted at No. 1 on the Brit charts and sold more than 300,000 copies in its first week. Whatever... doesn't hold back in speaking to the masses.

Alex Turner's poignant turn-of-phrases in such stunners as "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" and "Riot Van" show rhyme schemes that echo a Shakespearean affection for witty couplets. Paired with their Clash-y up-strumming and Strokes-if-they-were-harder jaggedness, the Monkeys present an entirely refreshing and new perspective on the increasingly boring state of contemporary rock 'n' roll music.

And the subject matter is detailed in deceptively simple observational lyrics that are eons wiser than the Monkeys' youth would have you imagine. Whether it's cramming your mates into a cab, wondering about prostitutes or questioning the drinking age, it all speaks directly to legions of youth living the same situations.

One can only imagine how chuffed British kids were when the Who or Sex Pistols exploded; both bands defined an era for a nation's youth. This is the place where the Arctic Monkeys now find themselves. It's an exciting time with an exciting band.

Ben Blackwell writes about music for Metro Times . Send comments to [email protected].

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