Arctic Monkeys' Discography Ranked From Worst to Best
Updated: May 27, 2019
Even in the case of Arctic Monkeys, there will always be something that has to come in last place, regardless of how great it is at the end of the day.
This may come as a surprise to you, but I hardly ever give current bands a fair chance when it comes to checking out their music. I'd always known of Arctic Monkeys for the past 10+ years but couldn't name a single song of theirs, even if I had a gun to my head. I'd always associated them with popular rock acts like Black Keys, Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant etc. but always thought they were just imitators to the greats that I grew up listening to.
It wasn't until June 2018 when I had heard Arctic Monkeys for the first time. They had just released their most recent album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018), and my co workers were complaining about how bad it was and how much they had hated it. I thought, "okay, let me see what this is all about, I need something new anyway." I had listened to it all the way though at work the following day and thought it was very spacey, the vocals were very monotone and you couldn't really when the songs had ended. I definitely wasn't crazy about the first time I had listened to it, but there was something strange about it that I thoroughly enjoyed, I just couldn't figure it out at the time. A few weeks down the road and a few more listen-throughs and I absolutely loved it. I had read up on inspiration behind the record and figured out the proper environment to listen to it in. I couldn't put that record down for a week straight. During that time, I went back and found a few of their older, more popular songs, but I still wasn't fully sold on them as a band at the time, I was still at the peak of my Oasis phase and had just discovered The Verve and The Stone Roses, I was well within my own world of the music of Manchester.
Fast forward to August 2018 when my roommate and I had taken a road trip to Maine for the weekend, where I had envisioned myself listening to Bon Iver, Neil Young and Ben Howard, as they were appropriate for the scenic change I was about to endure. Nope, not even close. On our way up, we had thrown on a random Spotify playlist where I heard, "R U Mine?" for the first time. No, I don't live under a rock, it was rather a cloud immersed in The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Oasis for the previous 5 years. I thought, "Oh my god, what the hell was that," I had to hear it again and anything remotely similar to it, I was completely drawn in.
One would most appropriately pair this song with a black leather jacket, jeans, sunglasses and slicked back hair. In my case, I was laying in a hammock, looking up at the trees, with a mosquito net covering my face. I wasn't in the proper setting to enjoy this tune by any means, but it damn near lit a fire under my ass and was my true wakeup call to realize that Arctic Monkeys were the real deal. Whenever I had the slightest bit of cell reception, I would try to play AM (2013) and had dabbled with their records on and off for the past few months, and now I can say I've finally covered their entire discography spanning six records, and without further ado, here is my take on each record, ranking from least greatest, to greatest.
6. Suck it and See (2011)
Let's start off with the band's fourth studio effort, Suck it and See. Suck it and See was the band's attempt at having their songs entirely written before going into the studio, having all the time in the world to second guess themselves. Instead, they just went for it and recorded most of their takes as a live band, rather than overdubbing individual recordings on top of each other. The album was recorded in its entirety at now defunct, Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, where a few, somewhat popular albums had been recorded in the past such as Nirvana's Nevermind and Fleetwood Mac's Rumors. Sound City had officially closed in late 2011, making Suck it and See the fifth-to-last album to ever be recorded at the legendary studio. The band's goal for this album was to write a more classic, poppy, and uplifting album from its dark predecessor, 2009's Humbug. Q Magazine had described the album as, "the sound of a band drawing back the curtains and letting the sunshine in."
The album opens up with the track, "She's Thunderstorms," a song that takes you on a roller coaster of every possible emotion, starting with a haunting guitar riff, followed by comforting, dreamy verses and then finished off with a hair-raising e-bow guitar solo. Another noteworthy track on the album is one of the bands heaviest songs they've ever recorded, "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair," which can only be played at the highest volume setting; an extremely heavy, crunching guitar riff with stoner rock elements that makes you want to put on a denim jacket, jeans and sunglasses and walk off into the desert. Lyrically, the track is Turner's statement to the fans and the industry saying not to get comfortable with one sound, and that the band will always re-invent themselves on their future records and not try to make a knock off of something they've already done before. The final track on the album, "That's Where You're Wrong," is exactly how you're supposed to close an album with your final statement to sell the listener in the end. Everything that the band had strived for while choosing their creative path for this album is in this song, driven by infectious, catchy guitar riffs, happy, melodic verses and choruses, and the final guitar solo that takes you lifts you up and takes you to a happy place, ultimately leaving a smile on your face when the mark strikes 0:00. An overall great record by anyone's standards, just not their strongest in my opinion, and yet, I still like it as much as I do; lets move on with this and dive head first into the ambient world of Arctic Monkeys.
Ideal Environment: Sunny summer days as well as light rainy days with the sun peaking out for emotional pick-up.
Key Tracks: She's Thunderstorms, The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala, Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair, Suck it and See, That's Where You're Wrong.
5. Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
Every band's biggest fear after releasing their debut album is releasing what's known as a, "sophomore slump," album, meaning a follow-up album which wasn't received as well as their debut album. This wasn't the band's fault at all, but because their first album would go on to be the fastest-selling debut album of all time, selling 364,000 copies in its first week but we'll save that for when I get to that album (Spoiler Alert: it's going to be awhile).
ANYWAY... Favourite Worst Nightmare, isn't anywhere near as bad as I had just made it out to be, the only bad thing you can really say about it is that it wasn't their first record part 2. FWN was extremely well received upon its released and was deemed, "faster, meaner and louder," than their previous record, which is an absolute fact. The album opens up with the track, "Brainstorm," a song that goes from 0 to 100 in a fraction of a second. It's a full-blown, sonic assault on their instruments, unleashed simultaneously. My favorite song on the album is the fourth track, "Balaclava," I literally have no idea how to even describe this song. The tempo, mood and feeling of the track change every few seconds and its practically a mish-mosh of different songs thrown into a blender and the was the end result, and it's bloody brilliant. As you get more into their music and individual records, you'll find that Arctic Monkeys always save one of the best songs for the albums final track, leaving a lasting impression on the listener. In this case, it's the bands first love song, "505," one of the most highlighted tracks in the bands discography which showcases the diversity and human element of Alex Turner's songwriting capabilities. A song beautifully layered with organs, clean guitar chords, heartwarming lyrics and vocal presentation.
Have yourself a laugh with this one, unless you're terrified of clowns. A fantastic song accompanied by a music video that will have you hysterically laughing and saying, "what the f-ck," to yourself around 87 times throughout.
Ideal Environment: During Halloween, late fall nights and dark, rainy days.
Key Tracks: Brainstorm, Balaclava, Fluorescent Adolescent, Do Me a Favour, 505.
4. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)
Here we are, my first Arctic Monkeys album, their most disliked album they've released. I wrote a full review of this album back in February, so you'll have to settle for the Cliff Notes version in this article. After a 5 year break in between album releases which included sold out arenas around the world, the band finally cracking America and a number 1 album with his side project, The Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner found himself lacking inspiration when it came to writing new songs on the guitar. Turner was gifted a Steinway Piano for his 30th birthday by his touring manager after the bands worldwide success with their previous album, 2013s AM. The piano would become Turner's main songwriting composition tool for this album, an album with a classic, vintage vibe, with futuristic elements, weird, right? No, awesome, totally awesome. People were disappointed because TBHC wasn't AM part 2, their most commercial release of their career, they had a hard time relating and identifying with this record as they did AM. TBHC was the band's experimental album where they did things they had never done before, their Sgt. Pepper, if you will. The album is layered with pianos, keyboards, synthesizers, organs, electronic loops and experimental elements; you'd think they album was recorded in outer space. The best way to describe this album would be if a band from the year 3000 had developed a time machine, traveled back to 2018 and tried to record an album with elements and influences of their time here, then went back to the year 3000 and recorded a futuristic sounding album.
Ideal Environment: Indoors on a fall night, playing in the background wearing fancy clothing with a glass of red wine.
Key Tracks: Star Treatment, One Point Perspective, Four out of Five, She Looks Like Fun, The Ultracheese.
3. AM (2013)
WHAT?!?! Are you serious?!? How is this not number one?!?!
Very easily.. lol. SO, here's where things get controversial. I fully understand that this album is a modern-day classic, it blew the doors open for them to American audiences and catapulted them into an entirely different classification of popularity. The biggest key factor for this album aside from the music as the timing of its release. If you were to look at the charts back in 2013, there are virtually no rock songs, except for those on this album. This album gave this generation of kids the proper dose of Rock 'N' Roll that they had always wanted. AM was a complete departure from their experimental era, both instrumentally and lyrically, and they just stripped it down to basics. This was when Alex Turner had practically rebranded himself as a modern day sex symbol by putting pomade in his hair, stunting a black leather jacket, jeans and biker boots, giving him that classic greaser look.
Instrumentally, the band had reinvented themselves again, writing songs that were more geared towards a having a very strong rhythm section (bass & drums), given hip-hops dominance throughout the years. They added plenty of falsettos, which are high-pitched backing vocals to give it a more pop, sing-a-long vibe to it. Getting into the music. The opening track, "Do I Wanna Know?" is arguably the most recognizable guitar riffs written in the last 10 years, it's not even close. Coming in with a devastating, despairing chorus where the protagonist pleas for his lover to stay, saying he doesn't care about anyone else in the entire world and will always find his way crawling back to her. Followed by the next track, "R U Mine?" which is probably one of my top-three favorite Arctic Monkeys tracks is just Rock 'N' Roll at its finest; great guitar riffs, catchy choruses, every instrument coming at you at once, just brilliant. Lyrically, the album revolves around the every day subjects that we all encounter in our lives; heartbreak, wanting someone, drunk texting, having epiphanies and enjoying life while you're young. Other highlights of this album include the Black Sabbath inspired track, "Arabella," the head-bopping, toe-tapping, "Snap Out of It," and the John Cooper Clarke Poem, "I Wanna be Yours,' which Alex Turner had renditioned into a song.
At the end of the day, AM is a damn good record, it's just the inner hipster in me that refuses to identify with overly popular things in society. AM is the PERFECT record to introduce your friends or future children to modern-day Rock 'N' Roll without showing them anything that sounds overly dated. Another great person to show this record to is someone trying to learn the guitar. The guitar parts of the album are incredibly simple, and can be learned in a matter of minutes, regardless of experience.
Ideal Environment: Sunny Summer Day in the car with the windows down either by yourself or with friends, as well as pre-gaming for a night out.
Key Tracks: R U Mine?, One for the Road, No. 1 Party Anthem, Fireside, Snap Out of It.
2. Humbug (2009)
Personally, this is my favorite Arctic Monkeys record. While this is my favorite album, favorite album and best album are two different things. Humbug was recorded entirely in Los Angeles and was produced by Queens of the Stone Age frontman, Josh Homme. This was the beginning of the bands experimental phase where they had flown to America and approached Josh Homme to lead them on this mythical escapade through the desert to the soundtrack of Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Jim Morrison. The band had truly wanted to surround themselves in an environment to which they were not familiar with at all, as they were seeking inspiration to reinvent themselves as artists, again. Humbug features elements that the band had never experimented with before, such as haunting organs, psychedelic ambience and effects pedals, on tracks like, "Pretty Visitors," and "Dance Little Liar." Heavy stoner rock elements and slide guitars on "Crying Lightning," and "Dangerous Animals" and sweet, heartfelt songs such as, "Secret Door,"Fire and the Thud," and "Cornerstone." This was their first mature album to which they had sought new inspiration entirely different from what they had done before and they seriously killed it. The only thing about this album is that it has a very, very particular vibe and sound to it, meaning that it isn't going to be for everybody, but for those that like it, they absolutely love it.
In my opinion, not only does the instrumentation blow my mind on this record, but so do Alex Turner's lyrics; I personally think his best album from a lyrical sense. My favorite song on the record, "Fire and the Thud," was a song that Turner had written for his longtime girlfriend Alexa Chung. The song opens with a, "Gimme Shelter," - like guitar riff, followed by the chilling line, "You showed me my tomorrow," meaning that someone might not have had clear direction of their future, but then they met someone that changed the trajectory of their life. They now know what their future holds, being with that person. Another line that gets me is, "The day after you stole my heart, everything I touched told me it would be better shared with you." It's extremely cliche, but extremely beautiful and straight forward.
Finally, before the song rips your head off:
I did request the mark you cast Didn't heal as fast I hear your voice in silences Will the teasing of the fire be followed by the thud?"
Meaning yes, I wanted you to cast the feelings you brought upon me, no, the wounds didn't heal as fast as I would have liked them to. I still hear you voice in a silent room, remembering the words you said to me, and now is this part of the fire that will only continue to grow, or will it just be a tease, a thud? This is then followed by an absolutely BLISTERING slide guitar solo to which you can almost feel the first note slice your body in half, it's wild, man.
Turner really matured as a lyricist on this album, this song as well as, “The Jeweller’s Hands,” best showcase Turner’s lyrical abilities.
Ideal Environment: Hot, sunny summer day or in a pitch black room at night
Key Tracks: My Propeller, Secret Door, Fire and the Thud, Dance Little Liar, Pretty Visitors.
1. Whatever People Say I am, That't What I'm Not (2006)
Here we finally are, the end, except in this case, the end is the beginning. The album that put Arctic Monkeys on the map and had launched them into overnight sensations in England before the album had even been released! This was during the era of music getting leaked and pirated on the interned before it had even released. However, this worked in Arctic Monkeys favor because it had helped spread across the country in the most rapid way. After Oasis and other 90s Britpop bands had flamed out, England needed to produce their next great rock band that would define the next decade, and here they are. You'd never guess in a million years that not a single member of the band was older than 20 years old when they had written and recorded this Indie Rock, post-punk, garage rock revival masterpiece. They were just a bunch of pimple-faced, pubescent boys when they recorded the recorded with the biggest set of balls on it since Oasis' debut album, Definitely Maybe in 1994.
These kids don't even look like they're in high school yet, let alone drink in their country and endure the club scene in the way they did. WPSIATWIN is a concept album, an album that tells a story or focuses around a particular theme. This album chronicles the Northern England club scene, dealing with nights they get hyped up to only be let down and disappointed, getting popped for public intoxication, witnessing grotesque human behavior on the dance floor, dealing with rude bouncers, dealing with scummy men that are different people when the sun is up and when it goes down, romance and so on and so forth. Each song tells a different story focusing on one of these specific themes, dominated by loud, distorted guitars, heavy feedback, simplistic riffs and pure attitude.
This album gave every 18-25 year old something to relate to, something that they identified with, and it truly tapped into that particular age group. It's one thing to have someone say these things in song lyrics, but to accompany them with such matching music to pair with it, its a recipe for success every time.
Ideal Environment: Pregaming with your friends, in the car, literally anywhere. Do it.
Key tracks: The View From the Afternoon, Riot Van, Mardy Bum, Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But..., When the Sun Goes Down, From the Ritz to the Rubble, A Certain Romance.
If you've made it this far...you're a trooper, you know that? As tiring as these articles can be when you have to pretty much cover an entire band's career in one short article, you often find yourself pressed for details. As I had mentioned in the past, this is what I live for; writing about music that I love and using my words to help spread the love and happiness that I get from this music. The same way that one song can change my life for weeks, months, and even years, the same exact thing can happen to you, and that's a very, very good thing.
You can trust me.