Review of Arctic Monkeys: At the Apollo
Label
Domino
Arctic Monkeys: At the Apollo

Reviewed by Will Harris

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W

hen a band has put out a mere two albums but follows the second with a live album, the fans may get giddy, but the critics think, “Hey, look, the label’s trying to wring a few more dollars out of the diehards before the group’s 15 minutes of fame are up!”

Yes, it’s true: we journalists are a cynical lot.

Arctic Monkeys may have received enough ink from the British music press to fill the Thames, but here in the States, their fate has only been slightly better than that of their peers…which is to say that they’re not exactly shifting Jonas-level units. Their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, did so well in the UK that curiosity alone brought it into the US Top 30, and they even managed to build enough of a fan base off of that record to find their second release, Favourite Worst Nightmare, premiere in the top 10. Sounds great, right? Yeah, right until you check the overall stats and see that, despite that impressive initial showing, Nightmare’s sales dropped off so significantly that it never made it past earning a silver record. (Who even knew they still gave silver records?) Now, here we sit, waiting semi-patiently for the release of the band’s third album, Humbug, scheduled to emerge at the end of the summer.

For their stop-gap measure, Arctic Monkeys have decided to try a unique tactic, opting to release a live DVD (“At the Apollo”), throw in a CD of a different concert (Live in Texas), and pretend that the album is really just a bonus inclusion, even though the package is quite clearly designed to sit alongside your CDs rather than your DVDs. It’s a brilliant maneuver, as it allows the band to get away with releasing the requisite unnecessary live album without having it show up in their proper discography, thereby keeping their overall stats from being dragged down. This proves to be a good thing, as this set certainly isn’t anything that anyone outside of the band’s existing fans will view as a must-own.

Between the course of the DVD and CD, we’re treated to 11 of the 13 songs from the band’s debut, 8 of the 12 songs from their sophomore effort, and a smattering of B-sides, including “Cigarette Smoker Fiona” and “Plastic Tramp.” Both mediums will please the fans (the song crossover between the two isn’t as significant as you’d think), but the performance at the Apollo is the one you’ll remember most after it’s over. Neither, however, is necessarily anything you’d find yourself spinning on a regular basis.

 The performances are tight, the songs remain strong in a live setting (which is no surprise, given that they’re pretty raw even in their studio versions), but for as energetic as their music is, Arctic Monkeys don’t really offer a very exciting concert experience. It’s not as though they really have to offer one, since you’d almost certainly be dancing too hard to care, but when you’re sitting at home and watching the show, you may well find that, all told, you’d just as soon be listening to the proper albums.

No, Arctic Monkeys’ 15 minutes aren’t up – or if they are, they shouldn’t be, as their music’s far too good for that. Nonetheless, in today’s current economic climate, you’d do better to save your money for Humbug than spend it on this set.

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