Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Outkast's "Dracula's Wedding," David Bowie's "Starman", and The Clash's "Guns on the Roof."
The Arctic Monkeys... I don't like 'em. Maybe it was the ridiculous amount of hype heaped onto their debut album, the semi-skilled but far from revolutionary "Whatever People Say, It's a Huge Title, And That Makes us Awesome" or some other nonsense. Or maybe it's their name, with that playful use of the word monkey. "Monkey" is one of those cheap punchline words thrown into bits by would-be comedians in order to guarantee laughter only because audiences have been programmed to respond with laughter upon hearing it. But it's an easy move that even the creators of Space Chimps thought was too hack. When you've fallen behind those guys, then your "edgy" title comes into question. Or maybe it could just be that the Monkey's music doesn't really do it for me AND they've got a stupid name AND their first album was over hyped. I tried, honestly, but I can't get past the irritating opening strains of "Dancing Shoes" with lead singer Alex Turner wailing "Poot ahn yer Dahnsen Sheous...."
My ultimate frustration with the group sets in when a song by these unlikable shits actually works for me. If not for "From the Ritz To The Rubble," I would have peace. I could easily bury that whole damn album and move on with my existence, listening exclusively to groups I fully enjoy. Instead the Arctic Monkeys (so stupid, that name) managed to rock so thoroughly on "Ritz," fulfilling so many promises in just over three minutes that I kind of get even more angry. You saved this for track 12 out of 13? It's like if your favorite basketball team has been playing like crap for the first three games of the N.B.A. finals, and then they suddenly win two in commanding fashion. Where has this been?
The more I've lived with this song, the more I've decoded how thoroughly it has been perfectly designed for my enjoyment. It's a wonderfully verbose tune with a chorus composed of quick blasts of near gibberish, and it's fantastic. Hearing "Well I'm so glad they turned us all away we'll put it down to fate/I said a thousand million things that I could never say this morning/Got too deep, but how deep is too deep?" in only 14 seconds is one of those runs that sounds so exciting that I can't help but try to sing along, even though I'm doomed to fail miserably. And early on, when it starts slow, then the guitar kicks in, followed shortly by the drums and all the components rush to that glorious explosion of the first chorus. When the Arctic Monkeys really show how good they should be is in their handling of "Ritz's" second verse. It sounds like an extension of the chorus, carrying similar energy from the preceding rather than dropping back to square one. They just keep carrying it through; they're in a good spot and as if the rest of the band knows it, they all chime in with the "That girl's a different girl" bit. A pretentious jerk might claim this moment as the one where the Arctic Monkeys became "a Band" with a capital "B," and he would not be wrong. The remainder of the song confirms it. Which leads me to the outro, the proverbial "rubble" if you will, where the band simply bashes as well as any band alive or dead, complete with enchanting chanting of "Nah-nuh-nah-nah's!"
A sure sign of a good song (for me) is when I instinctively turn up the volume. Sometimes it happens right at the top, sometimes at the first chorus, sometimes well after the middle or the bridge. "From The Ritz" has about FIVE different moments begging for a cranking, which makes me feel like an idiot and a snob. Do I have the Arctic Monkeys wrong? Are they the second (or third) coming of the Jam, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Stooges? Is the fact that they can ellicit such reactions of irrational hatred evidence of their legitimate punk mastery? Or are they a unique type of one hit wonder where they have a great song lost deep within a great album? "Ritz" almost makes me reconsider my position. Almost.