Is Arctic Monkeys' When The Sun Goes Down their darkest track?

16 January 2021, 14:50

Arctic Monkeys' When The Sun Goes Down video
Arctic Monkeys' When The Sun Goes Down video. Picture: YouTube/Official Arctic Monkeys

By Jenny Mensah

This week marks 15 years since Arctic Monkeys' single was released. Join us as we delve into the second cut from their debut album.

Arctic Monkeys released their When the Sun Goes Down single on 16 January 2006.

The second cut to be taken from the band's debut album - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - When The Sun goes Down told the dark tale of prostitution in the Neepsend area of Sheffield.

Watch the Paul Fraser directed video, which starred Lauren Socha (Misfits) and Stephen Graham (This Is England) here.

If the 3:28 promo isn't enough to make you feel depressed, then Scummy Man (the longer film it was taken from) definitely will.

Like the song, which is also known as Scummy Man, it tells the dismal story of a prostitute (Nina) and what appears to be her unscrupulous pimp.

Told from the perspective of a concerned narrator, we're given a snapshot of the young woman's life as he wonders what set of circumstances led to her unfortunate position".

"So who's that girl there?/ I wonder what went wrong/ So that she had to roam the streets/ She don't do major credit cards/I doubt she does receipts"

Alex Turner doesn't stop there though, conjuring up images of the life of the opportunistic "scumbag" beside her who forces her out onto the streets, leaving her at risk to sexually transmitted diseases and probable acts of violence.

Despite the shocking lyrics, Turner didn't have to dig as deep into his imagination for them as you might think.

Like much of Arctic Monkeys debut album, the frontman evoked the sights and sounds of his surroundings, and it is said the band would witness similar sights near their rehearsal rooms in Neepsend.

The refrain: "They said it changes when the sun goes down," perfectly encapsulates how areas can completely transform at night, forcing you to see another side to the city.

Talking to NME, Turner said of the area."You’d see a bloke with a carrier bag or summat and it’s like, ‘What the f*** is he doing here at this time of the night?’ Or you’d be packing your guitars away and somebody’d walk past and be like, ‘How much is one of them worth?"

Arctic Monkeys' When the Sun Goes Down artwork
Why Arctic Monkeys' When the Sun Goes Down is their darkest track. Picture: Press

Though he may have never met a "Scummy Man," as frightening as Stephen Graham's character, you can easily see how the real-life people he encountered may have been transformed into the frightful pimp we witness in their video.

When The Sun Goes Down might have been fictional, but it's clear the lyrics came from a very real place and captured the reality of some of the poverty-stricken desperation he witnessed in that area of the South Yorkshire city.

While it's hard to say for certain whether it's Alex Turner's most dark and depressing track, it's undoubtedly one of the band's most raw and honest.

Whether or not the frontman thinks much of the song now compared to his later works, we're just glad he never sold that guitar.

READ MORE: What is the story behind Arctic Monkeys Mardy Bum?

Watch them play their Mardy Bum track in Sheffield:

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