Arctic Monkeys, 10 years on: How 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' defeated second album syndrome

Jacob Stolworthy

In many ways, the release of an artist's second album is the defining moment of their career, with anything too similar or inferior seeing them disregarded as just another one record wonder.

Should an artist ride that wave to successfully deliver something that matches its predecessor's quality, however, and you're pretty much guaranteed an entry into the hall of fame.

The past quarter of a century has seen several successful endeavours - Radiohead, Blur, Oasis and Adele spring to mind - but no group of musicians have embraced the task with quite as much gusto as Sheffield quartet Arctic Monkeys whose sophomore album Favourite Worst Nightmare - the rowdy sequel to their record-breaking debut - was released in the UK ten years ago this Sunday (23 April).

Perhaps what is most striking about album number two is just how well they avoided succumbing to the pressures that so many other bands would have invariably fallen victim to had they scored the UK's fastest-selling debut record just 15 months previous.

Instead, Alex Turner and company returned with this gem which - after a decade - still stands tall as a metaphorical middle finger in the face of 'second album syndrome.'

With their follow-up, Arctic Monkeys blended the attributes that had worked so well on their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, with a fearless promise of what was to come. What Favourite Worst Nightmare fails to boast in freshness, it makes up for in unabashed ferocity.

Take as the proof the lead single 'Brianstorm', a hurricane of an opening track featuring all four band members working at their peak: drummer Matt Helders, guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O'Malley's frenetic instruments all heightening Turner's delivery.

It's a breathless opener backed up by the double punch of standout track 'Teddy Picker', the opening beat and riff of which is impossible not to expect as soon as the former grinds to a halt - the hallmark of an album that demands to be played back in order.

Favourite Worst Nightmare has zero time for messing about - every song immediately makes its presence felt and ends just as abruptly before hurling the listener full throttle into the next. It's a 38-minute ride allowing a mere five-minute breather (the wistful 'Only Ones Who Know' and the first half of 'Do Me a Favour') before carousing its way to perennial set-closer '505'.

Then there's 'Fluorescent Adolescent'. Could it be the indie pop crowd-pleaser of the noughties? It's certainly a contender.

With its instantly recognisable "ba-da-da"s and lewdly nostalgic talk of fishnets and Mecca daubers, the track - inspired by John Cooper Clarke's poem 'Out of Control Circus' (bolstered by the fairground-evoking organ) - is a refreshing lull whose lyrics, so concerned with the banality of routine, prove that not even widespread acclaim could ever take the Sheffield out of these lads.


On one level, the album's electrifying attitude is unsurprising - the band themselves found themselves caught up in a whirlwind year following the gargantuan success of Whatever People Say I Am... which plucked them from their Sheffield haunts to send them on tour around the world.

Upon its release, the album outsold the entire top 20 in its first day of sales, was nominated for the Mercury Music prize and won the group their fourth Brit - yet it's clear these achievements were never the goal.

Favourite Worst Nightmare was the first sign that Arctic Monkeys would change up their sound with each new record in as drastic a fashion as they wished - something which will no doubt continue with record number six (which they're rumoured to be currently writing).

If their debut defined a generation, this record shaped the band's future in a manner more mature, sexy and - just like the party depicted in the rowdy track 'This House Is a Circus' - berserk as f*ck.

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