“Favourite Worst Nightmare”
The cynicism is as barbed as the guitar riffs on Arctic Monkeys’ second album, “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” and the guitar riffs bristle. Their 2006 debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” rode an Internet buzz fueled by the band’s giving away its songs before release, but the momentum came from the songs themselves. Arctic Monkeys arrived amid a wave of English bands that were rediscovering the terse melodies and hurtling, hard-nosed narratives of new-wave rock. They weren’t the first, but they were among the most musically gifted, with two guitarists (Alex Turner and Jamie Cook) who spar and mesh with constant tension and a rhythm section (Andy Nicholson on bass and Matt Helders on drums) that swings as it drives the music.
In the time between albums Arctic Monkeys have shifted their perspective from the nightlife, gigs, booze and flirtations of their debut album to a more encompassing disillusionment and sense of betrayal. “We’re forever unfulfilled, and can’t think why,” the band declares in “This House Is a Circus.”
Mr. Turner’s lyrics are so tightly packed that he sometimes delivers them as fast as a rapper. In the rush of rhymes, nearly everyone and everything is a cheat: lovers, hustlers, tabloid media, even nostalgic memories. “Balaclava” and “The Bad Thing” are pickups with a bad conscience from the start; “Do Me a Favour” focuses on the moment of a breakup. “Fluorescent Adolescent” mourns the way lust wanes — “Discarded all the naughty nights for niceness/Landed in a very common crisis” — while “If You Were There, Beware,” denounces the way reporters exploit suffering: “Can’t you sense she was never meant to fill column inches.”
The new songs are more melodic and even more meticulous than before. Arctic Monkeys have almost ruled out standard punk strumming. Instead they have zeroed in on the counterpoint of the two guitars, neatly separated on left and right channels and clawing fiercely at each other. The songs take pride in that bitter clarity. JON PARELES