If you're a young and talented rock band, what are you to do with your second album, when your debut album was a smashingly successful and deeply influential masterpiece? That was a struggle endured by a handful of 2000's bands involved in the post-punk-revival scene, notably The Strokes, The Libertines, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand and of course, The Arctic Monkeys. The response from The Arctic Monkeys on their second release, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was a valiant effort, more along the lines of expanding on the debut, and repeating what worked.
Although the band may have borrowed a handful of ideas used on the debut, that really wasn't a bad thing because it was very done well. Too often, listeners and critics alike look for sophomore albums following smashingly successful debuts to be made of primarily new ideas and styles and expect them to recreate the hype and impact of the debuts. Then when the sophomore releases don't meet those expectations, they get criticized for going too far from their respected comfort zones or selling out for a new sound. The truth is, though, unless you're Pavement or Pixies, two back-to-back earth-shattering albums usually just don't happen. In this case with Arctic Monkeys, they built on their initial successes and released another great album that listeners still come back to again and again, and deservingly so.
Similar to the debut, Favourite Worst Nightmare found many of its best tracks as the non-single album rock tracks like If You Were There Beware, This House is a Circus, and of course, 505. Eventually becoming perhaps the fan favorite track from the album over the 15 years since, 505 hits one of the most epic climaxes in modern indie rock around the two-and-a-half-minute mark when the softer, ominous song turns into a stadium rock anthem. The roaring guitars over the cymbal-heavy drumming give the record one of the most powerful outros in modern indie rock. One effect the guys did quite well on the record comparatively to the debut was that continual ominous feel, heard of course on 505 but also the album-titled track and Do Me a Favour. Perhaps subtly influenced by Radiohead, that effect marked perhaps the most present sonic difference between Favourite Worst Nightmare and the debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.
Aside from the deeper cuts, the singles hit hard amongst North American indie rock listeners and the more mainstream appreciation of indie rock across the pond, in the band's home country. Fluorescent Adolescent and Brianstorm still carry serious weight on indie rock playlists and whatever is left of alternative radio, both being staples of live shows by the band. Fluorescent Adolescent tells a subtly comical tale of aging and not quite being as desirable as you once were. A catchy, spacious guitar riff played alongside danceable drums cemented this song as an indie rock staple for years to come.
Following Fluorescent Adolescent, the band's most Radiohead-esque track Only One Knows presents itself as a spacey, somber, '90s-style alternative rock song. The short track has no drums, subtle guitar playing, and emotive lyrics. This was a new feat for the band, the seemingly most different song in the band's short discography was a nice pinch of sonic evolution, adding an element of color to the powerful LP. Although the band may have taken the space rock sound to rather uninteresting heights on their more modern releases, when sprinkled in amongst powerful, post-punk tracks, it was pretty cool.
The highs on Favourite Worst Nightmare weren't quite as high as they were on the debut, however similarly to Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, there really weren't any lows. The talent of the band was completely on display on this release, creating yet another powerful record, and one that finds itself amongst the finest indie rock albums of all time (number 92 by our metrics). Although following this release, Arctic Monkeys fans began to become split amongst the albums since 2007 (with the exception of 2013's earth-shattering AM), there's so much to like on the sophomore release that seemingly never gets old.