February 5, 2006

Put On Your Party Shoes

A Certain Romance (original version) / Arctic Monkeys

Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts / Arctic Monkeys

Yeah, yeah, the Arctic Buttmonkeys are the last band in the world that needs another write-up. But I'm a bit knackered (Brit. slang, worn; tired; tuckered out), and these two tracks off the "unreleased" Beneath the Boardwalk EP have been fondling me in all the right places today. "A Certain Romance" is available on the huge-selling Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, but this version's far better. It's not that different, just enough. It's got more energy, unmistakably, and if the Arctic Monkey's have anything at all going for them, it's energy.

It could be that the drum intro sounds like it's being beaten on steel rather than skin. Or could be that this mix is sped up and 10 seconds shorter. But it's not. It's just that the second syllable of "Reeboks" gets more love. In this early incarnation of the song, the way young Mr. Turner sings the first five lines makes me wish I'd grown up across the Atlantic.
Well oh they might wear classic Reeboks
Or knackered Converse
Or tracky bottoms tucked in socks
But all of that's what the point is not
The point's that there ain't no romance around there
Okay, so the lyrics barely reach Oasis-levels of depth. Still, if there's anything I've learned while teaching SAT Writing classes, it's that combining concrete and abstract language is an extremely effective technique. The sticky syllables and smells of "classic Reeboks," "knackered Converse," and "tracky bottoms tucked in socks" make the word "romance" infinitely less gag-worthy. In fact, they make the missing romance sound almost as good as the sneakers.

Speaking of sneaks, the way Turner pronounces "knackered," it sounds almost like "Nike." And "Nike Converse" isn't an oxymoron anymore since the former purchased the latter (history, kicks, cred, and all) for $305 million in 2003. Intentional or not, all this makes the opening lines a subtler, funnier jab at the keeping-it-real scene than might be expected.

"Bigger Boys & Stolen Sweethearts" is off the same internet-only EP. It doesn't pack quite the same punch, but we do get a Smiths reference, a few more nice Britishisms, and one great line: "But she's not nice / She's pretty fucking far from nice."

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