Alex Turner, the face of Arctic MonkeysRosario López/Flickr

Recently, influential figures in rock music have been singing the praises of Arctic Monkeys. Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz called them the “last great guitar band” on the Broken Record Podcast. Pelle Almqvist of the Hives echoed this sentiment, claiming that they are the “only really good popular band”. Clearly, the band commands respect from their peers and, given the current state of rock, there is a debate as to whether Arctic Monkeys are the last truly great rock band.

“Amid the decline of rock, one band captured the hearts of the public”

At the turn of the 21st century, the music industry witnessed a significant shift: rap gained popularity while rock began to decline. Although there were successful rock bands like The Strokes, Foo Fighters, and Linkin Park, they either lost popularity or explored other genres. For instance, Linkin Park’s 2017 album One More Light leaned towards pop. However, amid the decline of rock, one band captured the hearts of the public: Arctic Monkeys.

When Arctic Monkeys released their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not in 2006, the British public was captivated. Perhaps it was their relatable lyrics about nightlife struggles or their catchy riffs exploding into energetic songs that set them apart. The album spawned two number-one singles and propelled them to stardom. They achieved similar success with their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare but faced challenges with their less successful third and fourth albums. Then came AM.

“No rock album has matched the popularity of AM since its release”

AM marked a turning point for the band. While still rooted in rock and guitar sounds, the album incorporated R&B and soul influences, making it more commercially successful than their previous efforts. It also brought them international fame, especially in the Americas. The album’s lead single, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, has nearly two billion streams on Spotify and other tracks like ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ and ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ have surpassed one billion streams. Despite exploring different sounds on their most recent albums, with piano-led songs in the art rock and lounge genres, Arctic Monkeys’ success remains unparalleled in the industry. No rock album has matched the popularity of AM since its release.

So, are Arctic Monkeys the last great rock band? Well, there are two main criteria for determining this: commercial and critical success. Arctic Monkeys have undoubtedly achieved commercial success but are there no other rock bands with similar achievements? While acts like Coldplay and Imagine Dragons have more successfully entered the mainstream, can they really be considered rock bands? Coldplay leans towards pop, collaborating with artists like The Chainsmokers and BTS. Imagine Dragons, despite having more monthly Spotify listeners than Arctic Monkeys, incorporate more of a pop and electronic feel into their arena-filling anthems.


Mountain View

Black Country, New Road deliver a workshop at Robinson

Moreover, their critical acclaim falls short. Arctic Monkeys consistently receive positive reviews, with every album scoring over 74 on Metacritic. Imagine Dragons, on the other hand, have received mixed reviews at best. However, this is not to say that there aren’t other critically acclaimed modern rock bands. Black Country, New Road’s album Ants from Up There boasts a cumulative Metacritic score of 92, and Black Midi has multiple scores around 80. Many rock acts have critical acclaim but have struggled to match Arctic Monkeys’ commercial success. It appears that Arctic Monkeys is the only band able to achieve both feats.

According to this criteria, Albarn and Almqvist were right to suggest that Arctic Monkeys are the last great rock band. The group have consistently achieved both commercial and critical success, with each album receiving positive reviews and their groundbreaking record AM becoming one of the biggest releases of the 2010s. By constantly adapting their sound, the band have managed to maintain the popularity that their energetic sound attracted back in 2006. However, as Damon Albarn noted on the Broken Record Podcast, there are other bands with immense potential like Sleaford Mods and Yard Act. This suggests that the rock genre is not dead and still has much to offer. While no band has yet replicated Arctic Monkeys’ simultaneous critical and commercial success since their emergence, it is only a matter of time before someone else takes up the mantle.