Alex Turner is a noticer. The 21-year-old leader of the guitar band Arctic Monkeys, from Sheffield, England, writes songs rife with details of the nightclubbing life, with a flair for internal rhyming that's common among rappers, rare among rockers.
In a crisp, muscular 80-minute show at the Electric Factory on Thursday, Turner couldn't help but notice that the action in the mosh pit at his feet was a bit more physical than usual. ("You've got some ruffians here," he observed in his Yorkshire accent. "That's interesting.") Or that when looked at from the stage, the cavernous club reminded him of the Riddler's lair in an episode of the Batman TV series.
Pulling from the band's sophomore album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, Turner mocked the fashion choices of a would-be Lothario in "Brianstorm." "We can't take our eyes off your T-shirt and ties combination / We'll see you later, innovator."
In "Fluorescent Adolescent," he showed uncommon empathy with a young married girl who fears she's left the good times behind: "Discarded all the naughty nights for niceness / Landed in a very common crisis / Everything in order in a black hole / Nothing seems as pretty as the past, though / That Bloody Mary's lacking a Tabasco / Remember when he used to be a rascal?"
The Monkeys' first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was the absurdly overhyped, fastest-selling debut in British history. Favourite isn't quite so wide-eyed and winning.
It's a darker, harder, more inward-looking album, and showcases a band that was ferociously tight at the Factory. Turner and Jamie Cook's crosscutting guitars were relentlessly driven by powerhouse drummer Matt Helders. The encoreless set peaked with Whatever's cleverest, catchiest tunes, such as "Fake Tales of San Francisco," but included enough impressive Favourites to serve notice that the band has avoided the sophomore slump, and can likely look forward to years of productive Monkey business.
Teenage openers Be Your Own Pet made the headliners seem like senior citizens. The Nashville quartet fronted by 19-year-old Jemina Pearl delivered an entertainingly chaotic set that recalled the days of '80s hard-core punk. Pearl pogoed and shook her blond bob while the boys in the band buzzed with tangled finger-in-the-socket electricity.
"So you guys are into the Arctic Monkeys?" she impudently asked the crowd, then said, "That's cool," as if it were patently obvious that it wasn't.
To hear "Fluorescent Adolescent" go