British invasion: Internet-driven to full throttle

The Arctic Monkeys rank mighty high on Britain’s list of important exports. And while this frightfully young Manchester-bred bunch certainly fell into that category when the notoriously trendy U.K. press stumbled upon their Internet-driven launch, they’ve sidestepped the usual backlash with their principles intact.

“We were friends long before we became a band — long before any of us even played instruments,” says the band’s drummer, Matt Helders. “I think that what we did from the beginning was just entertain ourselves, and I still think that’s what’s most important to us.”

Their debut, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not,” sold more copies in its first week than any prior disc in Britain’s history. And if its sound — ’70ish punk revival and revved-up beats that recall early Elvis Costello — pointed up a certain trendiness, they nevertheless seem to have struck a major chord.

When readers of the New Musical Express voted it the fifth best album of all time — behind the Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind the Bollocks” but ahead of the Clash’s “London Calling” — it became evident that something was really afoot. Since the Clash has been cited by the band as an inspiration, along with Oasis, the Kinks and John Cooper Clarke, they’re not too big for their britches to give credit where credit is due.

Singer Alex Turner’s hyper-literate songs and the band’s ability to capture subtle shifts of mood — the front man has described “Whatever People Say” as the progression of a Saturday night into a Sunday morning — point to a bright future. And the fact that only guitarist Jamie Cook is old enough to legally drink in Britain hints that said future might be a long one indeed.

A newly recorded single, “Leave Before the Lights Come On,” came out this month. They enter the studio again in October to record their sophomore album for release next spring.

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