By Faith Vara
Some groups in the digital age don’t even bother with singles anymore, let alone B-sides. However, one group certainly doesn’t follow the normal music industry trends: Arctic Monkeys. The Sheffield, England four-piece have been prolific since their first album release in 2006, evolving and maturing their sound along the way. One thing that’s never changed, though, is their commitment to the lost art of B-sides.
Every single they release is certain to have an essential track, or sometimes multiple tracks, packaged along with it. And as of 2019, their number of B-sides is in the region of 40 – that’s enough for four extra albums of material. In honor of all the hidden gems this band has to offer, I decided to highlight some of my personal favorite B-sides and rarities. So, without further ado, let’s take a very deep dive into the Arctic Monkeys discography.
“Brianstorm” was a real gem of a single, but arguably, there was an even better cut on the single release. “Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend” provides an unlikely collaboration with rapper Dizzee Rascal, and oddly enough, succeeds in pulling it off.
This track appears to tell the story of two friends of the opposite gender who avoid taking their relationship to the next level in order to stay friends. Using phrases such as “I don’t ever want to hate you so don’t show me your bed,” the song provides a clear message if you actually listen to the lyrics, and even if you don’t, it’s still a quality song musically. A groovy guitar refrain, some inventive drum work, eerie vocal melodies and even a rap feature all make this one to remember.
Released for Record Store Day 2012, “Electricity” is the seductively charged yet subdued B-side to the stand-out track,”‘R U Mine?.” The screaming guitar juxtaposes against Turner’s velvety voice, and the combination of the two creates a parallel feeling of lust and fear of the unknown, making this tune a seductive mystery.
They wear their Queens of the Stone Age influence on their sleeve here, powering forward with the same fuzzy distortion that the five-piece do. This track can definitely be described as electric, perfectly fitting its title; it’s direct, it’s confrontational, and it’s one heck of a B-side. In my opinion, the track is certainly one that could’ve easily been included on AM.
This left-of-center oddity from the 2009 “Cornerstone” single, which happens to be my favorite single release of theirs, finds the band at their most peculiar. Musical notes squeak out of every crevice, with distorted riffs, irregular beats and distant vocals laying the groundwork, while bizarre keyboard sounds fill the already mystifying sound. The lyrical work of Alex Turner is also something to applaud in this track.
Some of his finest observations and metaphors are harvested in these two minutes, such as when he compares the sketchead to a “cumbersome protagonist”, “the eye behind the spyhole” and “the itch you can’t itch in your ear.” However, the highlight of the track is the aggressive fast-paced drumming that takes place as it approaches its conclusion, providing a punk edge that isn’t commonly heard in their discography.
One thing that is lacking on some of the band’s most recent work is the charmingly mundane stories that commonly appeared in their early records. The “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” B-side, “Bigger Boys and Stolen Sweethearts,” is a prime example of Turner’s famous storytelling.
This heart-warming story of a long lost school sweetheart is certainly deserving of a place on their first album, providing the same indie rock style that brought them success in the first place. Overlapping guitar parts, whimsical lyrics, and super tight musicianship make this track an essential for those who enjoyed the band’s earlier work.
This moody cut from 2010’s “My Propeller” single is so fully-formed, it’s genuinely surprising that it wasn’t included on their third studio album, Humbug. “Joining the Dots” shows Turner’s balladry at its most simple and stripped-back, sounding like a cross between Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana.
This track features a wailing guitar section, sparse drum beats, and a haunting production – giving the track a very particular feel that isn’t really present in much of their later work. It’s an enchanting offering, and the first of three excellent B-sides included on the release of ‘My Propeller’, which, in my opinion, is one of the best single-based releases that the band have yet to come out with.
There’s no argument that the amount of songs this group has released in just a little over a decade is impressive. However, I think what’s most impressive is how consistent they have been; not only with albums, but with singles and B-sides too. Some groups tend to put out B-sides like their throwaway tracks. Arctic Monkeys, however, release them like they were precious shards of noise just waiting to be listened to.
If you want to hear more of the rarities Arctic Monkeys has to offer, check out this playlist I’ve compiled: