It’s impossible to not love the transparency of Alex Turner. When Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not exploded into the world, a large amount of focus was on Turner. For once, it was possible to listen to contemporary rock music, and not have to interpret every lyric for what it might have meant. Turner was blatant, almost playing the role of an observational Jerry Seinfeld of Sheffield. By being crass enough to admit that there was “only music so that there’s new ringtones,” amongst a plethora of other brilliant lines, Arctic Monkeys were easy to consume, and because of Turner, they were also insightful.
As we’ve seen Arctic Monkeys grow, the transparency may have explicitly have deteriorated in some people’s minds, with Turner abandoning his great sense of youthful insight for something more mystic and personal. Where it was once easy to think it was possible to identify Turner through his lyrics, the focus has been centralised to his song writing ability. A simply thoughtful lyric can captivate the mind, but it seems as though the shift is now coming through emotion evoking music.
With three Monkeys albums under his belt, and an admirably adventurous dive into the Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen influenced world of the Last Shadow Puppets, it is obvious that Turner is constantly progressing as a song writer in a positive light. He has more depth, more knowledge, and most importantly, more confidence. While Submarine is the accompanying soundtrack to Richard Ayoade’s coming-of-age film, it’s almost better to merely see this as a solo Alex Turner EP. While purists might argue that a soundtrack has to match its film, in this case, I personally feel there is an exception, as Ayoade didn’t even allow Turner to see Submarine before and during the composition of the five and a bit songs.
“Stuck On The Puzzle” (including an extended introduction) and “Piledriver Waltz” are the most straightforward tracks. However, by being straightforward, they should not be dismissed in any way. These are perhaps some of the most stunningly beautiful songs that Turner has ever composed under any moniker. “Piledriver Waltz” (which is said to appear in a more finite form on the upcoming Arctic Monkeys’ upcoming Suck It and See), is a simple affair, but it’s Alex’s inherent knack for melody that conveys a great sense of sincerity and emotion. This is the same established craft that made “Cornerstone” so perfect. Almost crooning, he establishes the scene for a forlorn love making reservations at the metaphorical Heartbreak Hotel, where both waitresses and the food itself are purely miserable. “Stuck On The Puzzle” finds Turner in an unfamiliar situation, his voice humbly sinking over a lone piano, drum and bass. While it’s unfamiliar, it certainly feels comfortable; something which can be attributed to his undeniably improvement as a vocalist. Where once Alex Turner was a feasible mumbler, excused by a lyrical prowess and the charm of his northern accent, he is now an efficient singer, capable of using his voice to carry a song.
It’s this voice that makes it now possible for Turner to complete a large majority of these songs acoustically. “It’s hard to get around the wind” is another gem that can sit at the mantle of Turner’s best songs, drawing similarities between the line to Heaven to that of a nightclub. Sometimes these lyrics are a bit stifling and confusing to place in context, but once more, these songs become something more due to Turner’s impeccable vocal melodies. It’s almost difficult to describe, and admittedly, as a music reviewer, one should be ashamed to admit that, but as silly as it sounds, it’s hard to not want to live in the worlds that Turner manifests through song.
One of the most redeeming qualities that an artist and composer can possess these days is a sense of dynamic progression. Many great artists were like this, and Turner is definitely making his way there. As soon as people think they have Alex Turner figured out, he’s already leaps and bounds beyond what ever impressive precedent he has established. This may not mean a lot to some, but it’s impossible to deny that it’s not endearing.
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