Film soundtracks are too often seen through sceptical eyes; write a song for, say, the Twilight franchise, and you’re a massive sell-out loser who’d do just about anything to get ahead in the biz (we’re looking at you, Florence). On the other hand, soundtrack a small budget independent film directed by cult comedy actor Richard Ayoade and you face cries of “where’s the new Arctic’s stuff that doesn’t sound like it was written by a five year old!” A dilemma, I’m sure you’ll agree. But with Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead following up his OST of There Will be Blood with new release Norwegian Wood, it seems there’s absolutely no reason to be quite so cynical. So stop it, you cynics.
This six track EP is an altogether more wistful affair than anything Alex Turner’s previous outfits (Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets) have produced. It’s poised, elegant and contains some of the most pleasant tunes you’ll have heard for a while, far from the brash and obvious observations of the Monkeys’ first two albums. In fact, it’s closer in style to Turner’s local hero Richard Hawley, and, looking further afield, is comparable to Californian singer-songwriter Cass McCombs, or the Canadian Owen Pallett. Lyrically, Turner is on top form again, back in storytelling mode following Humbug’s more abstract style. There’s no one else on the planet who could deliver the opening lines of ‘Stuck on the Puzzle’- “I’m not the kind of fool / who’s gonna sit and sing to you”- with quite as much grace and delicacy; it actually sounds like he’s purring the words. On ‘Piledriver Waltz’, intended to be revisited on the forthcoming Arctic Monkeys album Suck It and See, the sheer poetry of the first lines – “I etched the face of a stop watch / On the back of a raindrop / And did a swap for the sand in an hourglass” – will be welcomed by any fans desperate for the return of the wordsmith following last week’s airing of ‘Brick By Brick’.
With Submarine, Turner oozes the romantic sensibility that always threatened with the likes of ‘Only Ones Who Know’ or ‘Cornerstone’, whether it be through the one-man-and-his-acoustic strumming of ‘Glass in the Park’, or the more layered, stylised affectations of “Piledriver Waltz”. This is a musician whose lyricism is more than strong enough to carry itself, but who knows the art of a good tune too.
From Joe Abbitt.