Since becoming one of the first-ever bands to come to prominence via the internet in the 2000s, the Arctic Monkeys have become one of the most successful British exports of the last 20 years, selling over 20 million records worldwide, earning critical acclaim wherever they go, and winning more awards than anyone’s got time to count. Here, we look back at some of their finest moments with our pick of the 10 best Arctic Monkeys songs of all time.
10. Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor may have got all the attention, but flip over to its B side and you’ll find another cracking example of the band’s early work. Named one of the best underrated songs in the band’s catalog by littledoseofindie.com, Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts is a song about lost love, failed relationships, and more than anything else, Alex Turner’s ability to weave a story. “Bigger boys and stolen sweethearts, Oh, I’m better off without her anyway, I said I wasn’t sad to see her go, Yeah, but I’m only pretending, you know”….impressive stuff for a veteran songwriter, but phenomenal for a 19-year-old.
9. Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
Up next, a song with an after-hours bassline, a dancable rhythm, and a story about that all too relatable scenario of the drunk (or in this case, high) dial. Released as a single from the album AM in August 2013, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? debuted at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart to become the band’s first top ten hit since 2007’s Fluorescent Adolescent. It also managed to hit the top 10 of the US Rock Airplay and US Alternative Songs charts, and reach the top 40 of the US Mainstream Rock chart.
8. Riot Van
Compared to the rest of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, Riot Van is a very different proposition. A slow, lilting ode of the joys of underage drinking, its sugar-coated melodies conceal the burning sarcasm and wit of Turner’s writing: “‘Have you been drinking, son? You don’t look old enough to me.’/ ‘I’m sorry officer, is there a certain age you’re supposed to be? Cos nobody told me'”. It didn’t get released as a single, but still managed to certify silver based on downloads.
7. Crying Lightning
As Stereogum says, Alex Turner’s songwriting is usually at its finest when he’s complaining about something. On Crying Lightning, he turns his laser focus on people who cry to get their own way, using lines about pick and mix and strawberry laces to convey the immaturity of a girl who uses her tears as a weapon. Released as the lead single from the album Humbug in July 2009, the song reached number 12 on the UK singles chart and has since certified silver.
6. Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair
Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair is basically stoner rock… right up until that face-melting guitar riff kicks in and blows every preconceived idea about genre clean out the water. A highlight of the band’s fourth album, Suck it and See, the song charted at number 28 in the UK Singles Chart and performed well across Europe, reaching number 6 in Denmark and number 50 in Belgium.
5. Do I Wanna Know?
Described by Pop Matters as “a cleaner, slower-burning R U Mine?” Do I Wanna Know? has been categorized as indie rock, psychedelic rock, stoner rock, and blues rock. Ultimately, definitions don’t matter – that plodding drum and infectious guitar riff, combined with Turner’s worn in croon, on the hand, most definitely do. Released in June 2013, the song peaked at number 11 in the UK and became the first of the band’s singles to reach the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 70. It also managed to pick up a nomination for Best Rock Performance at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards
4. Fake Tales Of San Francisco
On Fake Tales Of San Francisco, Turner sings about the other local bands the Monkeys met during their time gigging around the bars in Sheffield – bands who were as much myth as they were music, who deliberately cultivated a fake persona to try and win street cred among their audiences: “He talks of San Francisco, he’s from Hunter’s Bar/ I don’t quite know the distance, but I’m sure that’s far.” Originally released on the band’s EP Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys in May 2005, it subsequently became one of their most popular songs after it got a second lease of life on the following year’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
3. Fluorescent Adolescent
With Turner’s songwriting among the best it’s ever been, a churning layer of guitars, and a bouncy bassline, this ballad about the side effects of getting older is the kind of song that holds you gripped from the first second to the last. A highlight of the 2007 album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, Fluorescent Adolescent reached the top five of the UK Singles Charts in July 2007 and became one of the top-selling songs of the year. It’s since certified 2 x platinum.
2. A Certain Romance
Described by the NME as a “strangely even-handed song which starts out scorning local townies then appears to absolve them at the end of the song,” A Certain Romance first came to people’s attention when it was released for free on the internet in 2004, before making its way onto the Beneath the Boardwalk compilation. When the band released their debut two years later, the song became one of its star attractions.
1. I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
Turner might have written better songs and the band may have given better performances, but the wanton teenage recklessness and lusty exuberance of I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor is too irresistible for it to place anywhere else but first. Released as the first single from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not in October 2005, it debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, picked up the award for Best Track at the 2006 NME Awards, and remains their best-known song to this day.