Arctic Monkeys: Embracing Change

Like many Arctic Monkeys fans, I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new album since album number five, AM, exploded into our lives five years ago. I remember that I had just moved into my student house, ready to start my second year of university, and we would be ecstatic every time our favourite Sheffield nightclub, Leadmill, blasted out ‘R U Mine?’ or ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ on a night out.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing Arctic Monkeys perform at Leeds festival the following summer, before seeing Alex Turner back up on stage at Glastonbury in 2016 with fellow musician Miles Kane as part of their band The Last Shadow Puppets. Having first seen Arctic Monkeys at Leeds Festival all the way back in 2005 after the release of their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, I am no stranger to Alex Turner’s transformations.

And that’s why this transformation into Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino feels like no surprise at all, especially to fans who are familiar with Humbug, Last Shadow Puppet’s Everything You’ve Come To Expect and Turner’s  solo EP Submarine. You only had to glimpse at the teaser artwork for Tranquility and the band promo photos to know that we were about to be invited into a new chapter in Arctic Monkeys’ lives.

While I’m not surprised that the new album has divided fans, I am always baffled when fans declare how they feel personally ‘betrayed’. Something that always frustrates me about the relationship between fans and bands is how some fans believe that music is made for them. Indeed, some musicians in the industry (with the push of their producers I’m sure), churn out music that they know will sell. But for bands like Arctic Monkeys, it’s never been about this. Bands who are passionate about their music never began writing and recording music with the intention of selling millions. Hell, the majority of them didn’t even expect to sell tickets at their local venue. For them, music is their creative outlet, it’s how they express themselves, and it’s what they truly live for.  Therefore they do not owe us fans anything.

Sure Arctic Monkeys could have chosen to create a sequel to AM knowing it would satisfy their long-awaiting fans, but I’m glad they chose not to. Otherwise, I would be worried that they had lost their musical direction entirely.  In his recent interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, Turner admits that  “The guitar had lost its ability to give me ideas. Every time I sat with a guitar I was suspicious of where it was gonna go. I had a pretty good idea of what I might be which is completely contrary to what I felt when I sat at the piano.” (NME).   

I absolutely loved Alex Turner’s interview with Annie Mac. It was fascinating to hear his thought process behind Tranquility and reassuring to hear that he still has so much creative energy and passion to put into his music. After listening to the new album a few times, I’ve been able to appreciate Turner’s poetic lyrics all over again. If anything, these songs are his most sophisticated yet.

I’m happy that Arctic Monkeys are passionate enough about their music to take this new direction and I’m so excited to see them live once more in September!

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