The View touched down in America into embracing hands. Kelefa Sanneh’s fawning review of the band’s January show at New York City’s compact Mercury Lounge, complemented by a mythmaking photo of the four smiling Scots lounging in a dingy basement, was splashed across the front page of the New York Times’ arts section the next day, a commendable feat for a band making its first U.S. appearance.
Of course, by that point the View had been washed and laundered through NME’s hype machine and the band’s supposedly anonymous debut was being carefully monitored by optimistic record-industry folks. The Arctic Monkeys were the biggest success story in a post-Libertines British music scene; could the View, equipped with bi-national acclaim and existing in a definitive pre-backlash stage, strike gold in a post-Monkeys world?
The comparisons between the two bands are inevitable but undeniable; both the View and the Arctic Monkeys are impossibly young (member’s ages top out at twenty and twenty-two, respectively), hail from little countryside towns (Sheffield, England and Dundee, Scotland) and traffic in the same youthful, reckless, morning-after nostalgia.
This is the part of the review where I’m supposed to say, “And that’s where the similarities end.” (Sanneh, from the aforementioned show review: “Like the Arctic Monkeys, the View is a young, scrappy band enjoying swift success, but that’s where the comparison ends.”) But the truth is that much of the charm of the View’s frontman, Kyle Falconer, on the band’s debut, Hats off to the Buskers, lies, like lead Monkey Alex Turner’s, in his stark resistance to masking his native brogue. The delightful way Falconer rolls his R‘s on “Superstar Tradesman” (“superstarrr trrrrradesman . . . stand at the barrrr”) mirrors Turner’s endearingly mis-conjugated verbs (“Didn’t you see her, she were gorgeous/ yeah, she were beyond belief,” from “Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secure”).
Busker’s best moment, the single “Wasted Little DJs,” comes halfway through the album. A rollicking affair, Falconer’s clean rhythm guitar drives the song headfirst into an exuberantly silly pig-Latin chorus “asted-wae ittle-ae ejays-dae/ I wish everybody danced like them” and then right through to a rambunctious, shouted second verse, Falconer’s strained vocals adding a sense of urgency. The opening couplet, “They told me if I write this song for them/ that they would cut my hair for free” again recalls Arctic Monkeys, this time Turner’s expertly recreated minutiae: “And you can swap jumpers and make another move,” from the club-queue horror story “From the Ritz to the Rubble.”
The fact that the View’s most obvious touchstone is such a new act is both bad news (for curmudgeon critics) and good news (for the band’s bottom line). In a vacuum, Hats off to the Buskers exists as a charming, innocuous piece of work, perfectly fine for mass appeal; in the real world, Falconer and company are gonna have to grin and bear just a few more Arctic Monkeys references. All in a day’s work for the Next Big Thing.