I’ve never been the biggest Arctic Monkeys fan. There, I said it.
Obviously, I thought their classic bangers were alright – Fluorescent Adolescent, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor, When the Sun Goes Down – they’re fine, probably better than a lot of the absolute tripe I’ll sing along to in the car these days (Robin Thicke, most unfortunately, included). I know the lyrics to these songs, having happily sung along and rushed to the dancefloor of the pitiful under-18s night at Northampton’s Roadmender in my year 8 days (Fri-Up what you sayin’). I might have even not skipped them when they came on shuffle on my second generation iPod Nano, that highest of accolades.
But you know what – all of you who were teenage boys when Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not came out act like they’re the only band to ever write wry lyrics about the little things as well as the big things and that’s just not true. They’re not the only band who regularly released albums throughout our secondary school years that we ate up like Golden Whispa bars stolen from the corner shop (remember them?) because they were just so goddamn tasty. So real. So raw. Alex Turner wasn’t the only one to take our messy, inconsequential teenage angsts and turn them into poetry that was worth listening to – as opposed to our whiny journal entries: Dear Diary, I’m in a mood because I had a fight with Katie in PE and now she isn’t speaking to me…
I’m not saying the Arctic Monkeys aren’t good, aren’t relatable, aren’t worth listening to. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to have that one band who you’re more emotionally attached to than your own family. That’s only human – I’ll cheerfully confess to scrawling Marina & The Diamonds’ eternal words, I feel like I’m the worst so I always act like I’m the best all over my lurid green science book. That woman understood me like nobody else ever could.
What I am saying about the Arctic Monkeys is that they’re not the only band that came out of the 2010’s worthy of any praise. I’m saying they’re not the first to do what they did. I’m saying – brace yourselves – they’re not original. Nope, not even this new album that you’ve all got your knickers in a twist about. It’s been done before.
The reason I feel angry when people revere the Arctic Monkeys and sneer at Marina is because it’s a classic case of men being taken seriously and women being dismissed as frivolous when they’re doing THE SAME THING. Just because Alex is a skinny boy in a leather jacket, sunglasses and greased back hair who sings with a pronounced Northern accent doesn’t make him any more valuable as an artist, any more sincere, any better than Marina, though you would be forgiven for thinking so, judging by the way people speak about him. Just because Marina uses visual mediums like dance and fashion along with a beat and a melody to express herself, her feelings and her (shock, horror) POLITICS whereas Mr Turner prefers to place line drawings of ass and titties over his droning…
…(ahem*sexist*ahem*male gaze*ahem*maybe that’s what Marina is making a point about through her lyrics and mesmerising visuals but she’s a woman so why would you listen to her*ahem*but as long as those grimy videos and lyrics about girls being fit help to justify your sordid teenage boy fantasies*ahem*oh God it must be so hard for you being a white man I bet you’ve never felt so understood*ahem*no it’s honestly fine I suppose that kind of sexism is more relatable to you because*ahem*you are a sexist*ahem*). Just because her concept album used synth-pop, bubblegum pink and huge brown eyes to make her point whereas every male artist ever needs to have a breakaway concept album about SPACE to feel like he’s really made his point and his contribution to music…
Which brings us to Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Let’s talk about this album then, SHALL WE? Because I like it. Yeah, you heard.
It’s dreamy, spaced out and the lyrics don’t make sense unless you really listen hard – it defies easy listening and you can pipe down in the back with your LISTENING IS EASY, Billy C., you know very well what I mean. (That’s a reference to Billy Connolly stand-up that has been removed from YouTube on copyright grounds – see below).
What I mean to say is that you need to concentrate on this music to really get it – it isn’t ‘just background music’ and if that’s how you’re using it, it’s no wonder you don’t really like it.
It’s categorically not ‘new’ or ‘original’ – NONE OF THEIR WORK IS. If you’re seriously telling me that this didn’t remind you of Bowie, that you’ve never heard (or at least heard OF) a space concept album, that you’ve never seen an episode of Black Mirror, that you’ve failed to notice the massive sci-fi/dystopia trend that has come back into fashion over, oh, I don’t know, the past TWO YEARS at the VERY LEAST – you really need to think a little bit harder before you make a comment like ‘it’s so original’ about a record. Even I know that, and I know nothing about music (and I’m just a girl, a blonde one at that!). This album is Bowie through and through. Given that I love Dave and, as we’ve established, am pretty ambivalent towards the Arctic Monkeys, maybe my appreciation of this album is just a manifestation of Bowie withdrawal. But so what if it is?
As an album it’s fairly self-deprecating, fairly self-aware – and yes, I know that these are Arctic Monkeys’ traits in general, but this felt less sleazy, less greasy, less icky than the rest of Turners’ music – even if it is annoyingly anti-social media (listen to Batphone: “Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole / Through a handheld device?”). I am so bored of this narrative; it brings back some horrific memories of French GCSE speaking exams about les réseaux sociaux.
For all of you saying it’s missing bangers, Four Out Of Five is really catchy – what you mean is you can’t jump around like a sweaty teenager to this album, and so what? Are you still a sweaty teenager? If you are, that’s fine, put on Teddy Picker and have a good old mosh before you go home for your tea. If you’re not, you need to get over yourself and stop insisting that your favourite band churns out the same music they’ve always been churning out just so that you can continue to relive your glory days when you were 15 at the boys’ school, wearing Lynx Africa, giving each other wedgies in the hallways and calling each other by your surnames (I actually know a lot of supposedly grown men who still do this, which I find very troubling). They’ve developed as musicians and it’s time for you to develop as a person. Mr Turner certainly doesn’t seem to care whether you’ll be letting your wild side run free to this album or not: “I’ve played to quiet rooms like this before”, he croons in One Point Perspective – of which, incidentally, I can’t listen to the intro without compulsively singing the opening lyrics to Robbie Williams’ Something Beautiful – “You can’t manufacture a miracle / The silence was pitiful that day…” Try it. Impossible.
ORIGINAL? COME ON.
My point is this: I like the new album. I don’t mind the old albums. I just wish you would stop acting like Alex Turner is a God because in reality, he isn’t that much better, more progressive or more original than anyone else, women most definitely included, and maybe, just maybe, he might have had some of his praise because he is a man singing about men’s experiences as if that wasn’t the fucking default anyway.
Whatever. I’m angry. Listen to the album. Bye.