Hang tight kids, it’s time to take a trip down memory lane…one where Alex Turner set aside significantly less money for his hair product/leather wardrobe fund, sun-glasses were worn for their proper use, and Glasto-headlining was but a far-off dream. If you’ve been following the Arctic Monkeys before their breakout fifth album AM quite frankly destroyed the charts by gaining Best Album of the Year titles by Pitchfork, NME, and Mercury Prize, and became one of the best-selling vinyl albums of the decade, then you know that pre-AM Arctic Monkeys was a very different Arctic Monkeys—both style-wise and music-wise. Believe it or not, the suave Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner actually used to be a gawky, fluffy-haired teen who wore pull-overs and jeans for gigs, stood stationary and wide-eyed in front of the mic whilst strumming his guitar out to thousands of people instead of dancing like a drunk dad at a karaoke bar, and sang fast-paced songs bursting with all the tension of a teenage boy eyeing a girl who he bets looks good on the dance floor in a perfectly uninhibited, pre-pubescent, Yorkshire accent.
Not to say that one Alex is better than the other (as a quick scrolling through Youtube comments on practically any Arctic Monkeys video will give you an idea of the split-fan base; one side lamenting the loss of the “real Alex” to this “self-indulgent, arrogant son of a b***” , and the other side defending his development into a sophisticated, renown musician who made a name for himself in the world of rock n’ roll). Truth be told, this impassioned conflict all seems a bit ridiculous and dramatic for me to take it seriously (though it is wildly entertaining). Perhaps the young Alex, in all his awkwardness and boyish charm, does inevitably invoke nostalgia for the former days of Arctic Monkeys, but realistically, no one can expect Alex Turner, or anyone for that matter, to remain completely the same over the course of their life.
When the Arctic Monkeys first album debuted in 2006, Alex just had a mere two decades of life under his belt, and nowhere near the amount of fame and success he has now. Just as his lyrics in their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not reflected this youth by illustrating his days of brute teenage rebellion stuck in the sweaty bars and clubs of Sheffield, so does his music now reflect the life he leads prowling devilishly in the nightlife and after-parties that come with leading the life of a successful musician. In fact, it is exactly this stark contrast musically that I think gives the Arctic Monkeys such an appeal, and the reason why they continue to remain one of my all-time favorite bands. Listening to their quintuplet of albums is like taking a journey through their maturation in their musical abilities and witnessing Alex’s honing on his lyrical genius, narrating each scene with as much poetic beauty and honesty as the last album. The Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner have definitely changed, but they have not lost any of their musical talent or charm that has been keeping longtime fans devoted and new waves of fans pouring in for years. And with that, let’s take a few steps back in time and appreciate what once was, and what has now become.
Flashback to 2006. Note that Alex has not yet mastered the quintessentially cool rock-star smirk. The Arctic Monkeys have just debuted their first album, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not and are revelling in their blossoming fame. The limelight does not come naturally to the young lad, but rock stardom is creeping on him fast, and it seems he does not know quite yet what to do with all of it. Oh young, and awkward Alex, you will soon learn.
It’s 2007. Favourite Worst Nightmare has been released, and the opening track ‘Brianstorm’ is proof that the Arctic Monkeys haven’t lost the pace and punch that have given them their recognition status. The pubescent squeaking quality of Alex’s voice has not yet been lost. Thank the music gods we have it immortalised in two full Monkeys album. A sweet treat for a trip down memory lane indeed.
Ah, the Humbug era, a fan-favourite, mostly because we all know we’ll never see Alex’s long luscious locks probably ever again. This album also marks the octave drop in Alex’s vocals to compliment the new route the Monkey’s seem to be experimenting in: dark, richly melodic, and bit spooky.
The only thing that gains more attention than Alex’s newly developed crooning and swooning vocal style in the 2011 Suck It and See album is his quiff. And his stellar fits. Pull-over is lost, popped leather jacket collar is in. Queue the outpouring of screaming groupies. Sex symbol status, granted.
And at last, the man we all have all come to know and love, despite his gag-inducing dance moves and ridiculous fashion choices (i.e sunglasses ALL the time, literally EVERYWHERE. Unless you have night vision sir, we all know you can’t see through those in the dark. TAKE THEM OFF). Overkill? Perhaps. But the man has sort of gained a pass; he is Alex Turner, after all.