By Nicola Roy (@circaslaves)
Ten years ago, the mention of Alex Turner would have brought to mind the messy, post-punk-like boisterous draw of Arctic Monkeys. Riding on the success of their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare was released- nothing too different from the first, but with clear technical improvement, most noticeably from drummer Matt Helders. Attempting to fill the young rock and roll void that was left by The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys created nothing short of a milestone in indie rock.
However, this would all change in 2008 when Alex Turner took on a new slick, unheard-of image upon his collaboration with Miles Kane. Kane, who was originally in a band called The Rascals, was reported to have been recording with Alex Turner and James Ford, who was in Simian Mobile Disco at the time. This was not the first time Alex Turner and Miles Kane had worked together; their collaborations extended back into Arctic Monkeys tracks, including 505, where Miles Kane played guitar.
Although they were both young at the time, they shared a love for Scott Walker‘s orchestral-style pop originating from the 1960s. This is clear throughout the album; flowing, cinematic-like melodies are rife and reminiscent of the past, whilst Kane and Turner‘s voices compliment each other in such a way that evoke memories of romantic, spaghetti-western films. They managed to shine a contemporary light on a long-forgotten style of music that had rarely been re-discovered since its heyday in the sixties- something that very few bands had done before, and have done since.
The lyrics in this album are worlds away from anything Alex Turner had ever done before. ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You‘, an ode to a girl who was ‘innocence and arrogance entwined’ oozes cynical old-school romance.’ ‘Standing Next To Me‘ rumbles along a strong timpani beat with even stronger, cinematic lyrics. One of the most impressive features of this album is Alex Turner‘s ability to create beautiful and melancholy lyrics and make them sound that way, but without losing his traditional gritty voice that set him apart from other male vocalists at that time.
Turner and Kane’s voices seamlessly glide over the instrumentals of James Ford and Owen Pallett, of Final Fantasy, who they commissioned to do the string arrangements for the album. The result? A vibrant nostalgia trip unlike anything else at that time that is still just as big, beautiful and fresh almost a decade later. A long hiatus later and their second album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect, was released- another album which is sure to be just as relevant in ten years’ time.
Given the huge success of Arctic Monkeys in 2008, a side project was the last thing on everyone’s minds and was an underwhelming idea. But this album, fizzling with suave lyrics and swelling melodies, changed everyone’s minds for good- and that’s an understatement.