Alex Turner: Beyond Arctic Monkeys to ‘Submarine’

by Jackson Maxwell
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at 3:09am

Beneath his slightly imposing, greaser-type haircut and still-strong English accent, Alex Turner may not want you to know he can write just as great a heartbreaker ballad as he can a fuzzed-out rocker.

The band Turner fronts, Arctic Monkeys, have come a long way since they burst into rock’s consciousness less than decade ago.

Nonchalantly tossing off what seemed like a hundred words a minute, all of them witty, wry, and pointed; Alex Turner was unlike any frontman rock had previously seen.

Arctic Monkey’s debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, showed a band that almost seemed as impatient with themselves as they were with the world around them.

Playing in dynamically engaging fits and starts while Turner narrated in a sort of Nick Carraway-esque voice of the incredibly colorful and vivid characters that inhabited his world, Arctic Monkeys immediately established themselves as a band with incredible potential.

As they developed over of the course their next four albums, Turner and the band frequently put on brilliant displays of their musical versatility. On their most recent effort, AM, they alternated funkier songs like “Do I Wanna Know?” and the note-perfect “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” with touching, engaging ballads like “Mad Sounds” and “No. 1 Party Anthem.”

For those not as familiar with Turner’s style, his ballads may be slightly surprising. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say they’re actually what he’s best at. Turner’s softer tracks reveal an incredible sense for detail, melody, and how lyrics can shape a song musically just as much as it can thematically.

alex-turner-submarine crop 280.pngTo that end, I can’t talk about Turner’s softer side without discussing his EP Submarine. His only solo release to date, Submarine is a collection of five acoustic tracks (six if you count the brief intro that is reprised later in the EP in the form of a full song) he wrote for the British coming of age film of the same name.

A beautifully filmed tale of a lovestruck but selfish teenager, Submarine is unremarkable on its own merits. But Turner’s soundtrack brings the simple story vividly and brilliantly to life with his acoustic ballads.

The EP’s first two, full tracks are two of the best Turner has ever penned. “Hiding Tonight” and “Glass In The Park” flawlessly capture the raw simplicity, excitement, and uncertainty of early teenage romance. Turner recognizes the powerful nostalgic element of these early romances, and frames them perfectly.

The lyrics and gorgeous melodies of these two tracks are so effortlessly executed that you’ll probably find yourself walking down memory lane to a simpler time yourself as you hear them. There’s an undeniable physicality to these songs. They’re not just nostalgic, they’re strong enough to engage all of the senses in your memory of these times. You won’t just remember say, your first kiss, off-hand. You’ll be able to smell the air of where you were, hear the sounds that surrounded you at the time, and fully immerse yourself in a memory. It doesn’t even have to be a memory; it could be the present.

View the video for “Hiding Tonight” here.

Regardless of the time frame or location of the memories it may bring back to the listener, Turner’s acoustic soundtrack to Submarine is as cinematic as the film itself. His songwriting is dazzling at every turn; giving life to feelings that wouldn’t otherwise be able to take form, to express themselves. Turner accomplishes on each track what each and every one of our favorite songs do for us. They take you to another time, and another place.

More at www.arcticmonkeys.com

Jackson Maxwell is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is double majoring in history and journalism. He is a staff writer for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and has his own music blog entitled “Two Dudes, Two Computers” with his friend Zach Newman. You can follow him here at twodudestwocomputers.tumblr.com/ or http://themotorcade.tumblr.com/