Alex Turner - Musical Metamorphosis
From the messy angst-filled rock in the early noughties, to the extravagant LA influenced records from earlier this year, Sheffield legend Alex Turner has cemented his name in musical history. Although his newly gained persona may have divided opinion but if you do not lie on one side of the Turner fence then there is no point even claiming to be a music fan. However this cocky, swagger filled rock God hasn't always been living inside him. There has been a dramatic evolution of the 30 year-old over the past decade both in writing and in actions.
Even in his early days Turner had a knack for his songwriting, it was partially this that gave the debut Arctic Monkey's album its huge success. Nights out in Sheffield brought to life in their characteristically ironic manor, but then he met Wirral-man Miles Kane. In 2007, the northern pair teamed up for their experimental side project The Last Shadow Puppets and it changed Turner for life. The partnership left him free to explore the musical influences lying within, and over those couple of years he began to grow as a musician. The pair wrote without restrictions, produce a debut album full of meanings and metaphors galore, a real concept rather than just quick teenage anthems. Turner fell in love with his new found lyrical insight and attempted to take it further when The Arctic Monkeys joined again for their 2009 album 'Humbug'. This, and their following 4th album 'Suck It And See' did not experience the same success as the previous two, failing to really break into mainstream listening and led to the group falling off the radar (momentarily).
But I do not believe this was merely a "blip" or the "shit period" as a number of fans might claim. It was more of a transition. The record seemed a mash up up of Turner influenced "edgier" songs and the occasional desperate attempt to reach back out to the Sheffield angst of old. But it wasn't "bad" by any means, songs such as 'Crying Lighting' and 'Black Treacle' up their with the best of them .Turner had returned, determined to bring his new found lyrical liberty to the band, but attempting to merge his new lyrical style with the same old Arctic's aggression created a strange dark atmosphere which was far off what fans had been wanting from a third album. Both the band and fans needed time to adapt. In between these two transitional albums, Turner got a call up from director 'Richard Ayoade' requesting a short stylized album to accompany his coming-of-age indie film 'Submarine'. This, in my opinion is where he finally found his feet, and is when he decided what route he wanted to go down. Being given free reign to produce more lyrically sophisticated tracks was just what was needed, giving him time to explore different methods of writing and a totally different atmosphere to his original Arctic monkeys work. This all eventually led to one of the best movie soundtracks of the decade!
Having being a life long admirer, this three year period was also when Turner began to fully embrace elements from Punk Poet 'John Cooper Clarke' (who played a major role in influencing other similar lyrical artists to Alex Turner , such as Sheffield counter part 'Jon McClure'). When re-uniting with the Arctic Monkeys in 2013, he brought Clarke's influence as well as that from his experiences with Kane and the 'Submarine' project. This, along with a few more years of experience under his belt, produced, as Turner himself described, their "Most original album" and what some fans would regard as their best. However, Turner was not finished yet! Two years later, the crowd pleasing-partnership of Turner and Kane was back together working on a follow up album.
After spending time together in LA , the South-coast sun must have sunk in. Seemingly from nowhere came an album far from any, either of the two had recorded before, full of orchestral accompaniment, unconventional rhythms and of course Turner's new found love for the more metaphorical end of the lyrical spectrum. In my opinion, his best piece of work , 'Everything That You've Come To Expect' highlights his change in style over the years and how he is one of the best around at putting his own twist on a whole host of influences, managing to reach his creative peak, with 'The Bourne Identity' being one the most beautifully written songs I can think of, with the lyrics also pretty much summing up his transformation.
Sometimes it can be hard to remember a time when Alex Turner wasn't the extravagant showman he is today, but when he first embarked on his music career he was a complete contrast to his present self. In 2002, the year of the Arctic Monkey's inception, Turner, although talented, was held back by his shy nature, often too nervous to share his lyrics with the other members and initially unwilling to become the front-man. After auditioning several friends for the role, none seemed to fit the bill and Turner found himself filling the vacancy , but still did not feel overly confident. He rarely engaged with the crowd at early gigs, merely playing the music in his own little world, rather than performing. However, as the band's popularity grew so did his self belief, by the time of the 2nd release Turner was beginning to grow into his musical persona and gaining the onstage presence demanded in the modern indie and rock scenes.
The band became known as one of the best live acts around with Turner's new found confidence and angst filled performances playing a major role in this. He was finding his feet as a front-man, he performed as a musician truly in love with his music, pouring every ounce of passion into every set, however it was only when he first began to work together with his northern soulmate Miles Kane that he really changed. With a boring and lackluster Kane gig being about as rare as a Jake Bugg smile, his blend of energy and showmanship seemed to rub off of Turner. This added swagger was evident, not only on-stage but also in his music, the two transitional albums from the Arctic Monkeys that I have already mentioned held a darker feel, filled with an added element of arrogance. By the time the band landed their 5th studio album, his character transition was complete, 'AM' marked a new version on the Sheffield legend, perfectly exemplified by his acceptance speech at the 2014 BRIT awards below. Cocky? Perhaps, but I don't believe that this is a Turner soured by the music industry, success and fame, as a some people have claimed, It was more a career move.
After his performance at Glastonury with 'The Last Shadow Puppets' some feared he had taken self-confidence a step far but I do not think that is the case. As time has gone by, his music has developed, keeping his original persona whilst altering his musical direction would have completely backfired. A comparison to Bowie would be way off, but as an example of how a persona must be created to accompany a style of music, he is the best. Similarly, I believe Turner grew into his front-man role the way he did as it was just what was needed of him, teenage angst and messy passion-filled performances were perfect at the time. However, as both the Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow Puppets projects began to take on a more extravagant feel, a new character was needed. And so was born the Turner we see before us today, elegantly strutting on stage, dancing with a smug knowledge that he is slowly serenading the audience track by track. Whether you approve of his antics, I believe he has succeeded in dragging rock & roll "Back through the sludge" as he said at the Brits, and you cannot deny that when this generation thinks back to the music greats of their time Alex Turner will be right at the top of that list.
Take a look at one of Turner's best lyrical pieces , 'The Bourne Identity' or take a listen to our collection of his best tracks on our Spotify playlist.