I’m not really too bothered about who he’s fucking, or where he lives, or even what he gets up to outside music. He can become an actor if he wants, start painting….. whatever. I’m concerned about Alex Turner, ‘the indie icon’, about this ‘genius’ tag that has prematurely been bestowed upon his slender frame.
Though success, both commercially and artistically has dictated that we should place Turner in the upper echelons of the indie hierarchy. Close to the likes of Jarvis Cocker or Morrissey. There seems to be an issue about how all the adulation can extend beyond his work on the Arctic Monkeys debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, culturally it was an album that changed the whole landscape of indie music, and by indie I don’t mean real indie, I mean indie. Y’all dig?
Think about it. It was an album that came from nowhere, produced a plethora of singles that everybody could relate to, transcending generations. You had everybody from the thousands in festival crowds singing ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ arms joined in unison, to a couple of middle aged dinner ladies singing along to ‘Mardy Bum’ on the radio whilst smeared in breadcrumbs and chip fat.
Then came the expectation, the hype, the pressure. Briefly acknowledged in the EP Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? we saw Turner the songwriter admitting that becoming a rockstar is not all it’s cracked up to be, and that life on the road can be a bit boring. Favourite Worst Nightmare seemed to reflect the hectic new found lifestyle, generally more frantic the band’s debut, we witnessed something unsure emerge from Turner. Where as in these circumstances, a more extroverted personality can embrace the notion that all eyes are on me now, for Turner a reticence set in. It appeared the man became serious too soon, and muddled himself in the quagmire of maturity.
Crooning on tracks such as ‘505’ and ‘Do Me A Favour’ Turner seemed hell bent in becoming an old man in his early twenties, adopting a vintage romantic persona that men such as Richard Hawley, Nick Cave and Scott Walker have naturally grown into. But the jacket didn’t fit. It seemed even less believable when he jettisoned the Monkeys to work with Miles Kane on the ridiculously pompous The Last Shadow Puppets side project.
See Turner found himself in a quandary, his popularity intact, his star fixed firmly in space. But his legacy perhaps already ruined. Arctic Monkeys couldn’t even do what Oasis did, and release two GREAT albums consecutively, they merely released one. Lyrically Turner deserted observation and wit, and became a little more cryptic, alienating the public by mystifying the private.
Though Humbug has established the Monkeys alongside Muse, Coldplay and Kasabian as festival headliners and bona fide heavyweights, what they share with those bands is a lack of pushing the boundaries, solid but unspectacular. Trustworthy musicianship, an almost bankable guarantee of a good gig, but the element of surprise is missing. Humbug seemed almost predictable, the getting back to basics album, working with Josh Homme in the desert to merely reconnect with the essence of rock.
I don’t believe that the other three members of the Arctic Monkeys are musical visionaries. Turner doesn’t have a foil within the band; there is no Lennon or McCartney, or better still Morrissey or Marr dynamic. He can trust his band to play, but not to create, and obviously the limitations of his band mates influenced his decision to adopt a side project involving the likes of James Ford and Owen Pallett. The group dynamic is tight musically, but seemingly unlikely to produce a Kid A defining release.
Maybe it all came too soon. The lad had to quickly adjust, and his life abruptly altered from having a comfortable little to acquiring an awful lot. Turner has always downplayed his success, though you’d be foolish to believe it hasn’t affected him. You go from being a bedroom bard to the voice of a generation, the expectation paradigm shifts.
In a time, as the fine football journo John Nicholson remarked where we have a tendency to over-rate, over-praise or even over-criticize. Turner exists as a man accelerated; perhaps not a genius, not yet a legend, but somewhere in the middle.