The Arctic Monkeys came into my life around ’05-06, as a burned copy of the UK version of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, that a friend pressed into my hands with the urgency that defined all of our musical exchanges back then, and which I’ve found absent from life as an adult. Alex Turner, then younger than I am now, sang about Sheffield lechers and cuddles in kitchens and fake record executives and running from suburban British cops – nothing I could claim to understand. But it’s undeniable even today: that first album articulated something about hitting the peak of puberty in a post-“Mission Accomplished” world of continual, ever-visible, but mostly ignored war; of ringtones; of . It made our former interests in Lil Wayne seem merely dilettantism and our enthusiasm for Linkin Park look embarrassingly adolescent. And Alex Turner’s croon has continued to undress desire, vapidity, hypocrisy, ennui, ego, loneliness, and obsession on every album since.
AM (2013) was a grime-glam parade of hits, the album that was just as meaty, fast, and infectious as their debut, but with the benefit of maturity, confidence, an L.A.-noir aesthetic, and dark 90s hip-hop vibes. The songs will continue to pop into my mind for the rest of my life. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino follows a tough act well, but not triumphantly. It proves the band is still culturally relevant and ready to dare – and Alex might even be at the height of his lyrical abilities – but it’s too much of Alex’s subconscious, not enough pop magic. I reviewed the album for The Skinny – read it here.
It will be interesting to see how these songs, mostly absent pop hooks but dense with the atmospheric noise of collaborators, will hold up live (apparently on a set Alex designed himself, while working on the cardboard model on the album’s cover). I caught the Monkeys in Toronto in 2013 and Lewiston in 2014 (and saw Alex with The Last Shadow Puppets in Manhattan in 2016). I’ll be seeing them again this summer in Canandaigua. You can count on reading about it here.