Thursday, 1 July 2010

2006 Arctic Monkeys: When The Sun Goes Down

Now here's something that genuinely leaves me torn. On one hand (and for the purposes of my own self imposed brief for this project), I do not regard 'When The Sun Goes Down' as a 'good single'. A good album track in the proper context maybe, but a single? 'When The Sun Goes Down' would sound saw-toothed rough in almost any company, but to say it flings a fistful of gravel into the oil spill slick run of recent number ones would be understatement.

Because although other English singer songwriters like Ray Davies or Morrissey have documented the underclasses of England with no less a keen or unflinching eye, Alex Turner's lyric of prostitutes, their punters and the ever present threat of violence is scraped out with a Hogarthian socio-realist bluntness that jars in its lack of good humour or sympathy toward the dysfunctional lives he describes. "And I've seen him with girls of the night, and he told Roxanne to put on her red light. They're all infected but he'll be alright" - it's heady stuff, delivered straight and raw as an open wound while behind him the band bash out their tune with the glee of drunken buskers on a Saturday night in town. Or a Lieutenant Pigeon with menaces. Whatever, as a post-Christmas comedown after the lights and tinsel have been put away then it doesn't get much lower.

All of which kind of suggests 'When The Sun Goes Down' is no more than a throwaway B side that got lucky, but it's not. Turner's writing is too whipsmart to rely on luck, though what Turner hasn't written for it is the same hook to hang on of 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' that offered the safe ground of a recognisable link to something approaching traditional pop; 'When The Sun Goes Down' eschews such niceties and instead adds an extra layer of grime to bury the melody and spits out a chorus tagline more suited to shouting along to than whistling. It's a 'WTF?' moment for sure and the closest point of reference to date is Mungo Jerry following the good time spring of 'In The Summertime' with the caveman jive of 'Baby Jump' (which was a throwaway B side that got extremely lucky). But 'When The Sun Goes Down' is a far more calculated and belligerent kick in the shins than that.

Ah but so effing what? 'Good' single or not, on the hand other than the one I opened with I take considerable pleasure at something so red in tooth and claw appearing at number one. A greater contrast with the production line pledges of life long love Shayne Ward promised you could not possible imagine, and in such company a breath of fetid yet honest air ("What a scummy man. Just give him half a chance I bet he'll rob you if he can. Can see it in his eyes that he's got a nasty plan") can smell remarkably fresh.

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