A cool change

The Arc­tic Mon­keys’ lat­est record flipped the sonic land­scape for the UK rock­ers. But front­man Alex Turner is still happy to mix the chilled with the hits, writes Kathy McCabe

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY -

NO all-night drink­ing ses­sions with Neil Young or The Prodigy back­stage at the Big Day Out. No pat­ting of kan­ga­roos on a day-off visit to a wildlife park. No out­ra­geous boat cruise re­plete with su­per­mod­els and litres of French bub­bles.

Ask Arc­tic Mon­keys front­man Alex Turner for his fond­est mem­ory of the Bri­tish band’s var­i­ous tours to Aus­tralia over the past 12 years and he di­vulges the most un­rock’n’roll rec­ol­lec­tion.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had any­thing but a re­ally good time ev­ery time we come down there,” he says.

“I think we played golf on one trip to Aus­tralia (in 2014) and I don’t play that of­ten. I re­mem­ber do­ing a very good bunker shot. A friend of mine was film­ing this bunker shot and it ended up like James Bond.

“I don’t know if Bond plays golf but if he did, his bunker shots would look like mine.”

The Arc­tic Mon­keys re­turn to Aus­tralia, and per­haps our golf courses, in Fe­bru­ary with their world tour in sup­port of their sixth stu­dio record, Tran­quil­ity Base Ho­tel and Casino.

The band’s first record in five years, it de­buted at No.1 on the ARIA charts here when it was re­leased in May.

While it opens with the lyric “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes” from first track Star

Treat­ment, the al­bum was a dra­matic rein­ven­tion of the Arc­tic Mon­keys as stylish lounge and space pop pro­tag­o­nists. It was more Bowie meets Tame Im­pala than The Stones meets Queens Of the Stone Age vibe of their pre­vi­ous record A.M.

It sounds like the same cre­ative am­bi­tions were at work in Turner that spurred Daniel Johns to ham­mer the nail in Sil­ver­chair’s rock cof­fin with their fi­nal al­bum Young Mod­ern.

Lis­ten­ing to its pi­ano and

bass-driven jazzy, psy­che­delic mu­si­cal soup begs the ques­tion of how the hell do the Arc­tic Mon­keys fit their break­through hit I Bet You Look Good On the Dance­floor or their pre­vi­ous record’s of­fer­ings in­clud­ing Ara­bella and Do I Wanna Know into the band of now?

Turner says

Tran­quil­ity Base is his new nor­mal, where his voice and artis­tic per­sona feel most com­fort­able. But don’t freak out; they still play the old stuff. “When I’m play­ing the new songs, I’m at my most com­fort­able, I think,” he says. “They are in the right range for me right now, and I mean that lit­er­ally, with my singing voice. But also be­yond that, deeper than that, if you al­low me to be so bold, this is where we are now.”

The sonic am­bi­tions of the Arc­tic Mon­keys aren’t the only things that have changed for Turner and his band­mates Matt Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Mal­ley since their 2006 de­but

al­bum What­ever Peo­ple Say I

Am, That’s What I’m Not hit No.1 in the UK and Aus­tralia.

On their first Aus­tralian tour in 2006, which sold out in min­utes, they played a fre­netic 45-minute set, Turner’s strum­ming arm mov­ing so fast you feared it might fly off into the scream­ing, sweaty au­di­ence.

Now, the front­man is more of a per­former with swag­ger and groove, a show­man al­beit one who still ap­pears re­luc­tant to com­mand the spot­light.

“You’ve got to think of some­thing if you are go­ing to (keep do­ing) it, if you’re go­ing to tell that joke that many times. You have to think of a new way to move your body,” Turner says about his on­stage vibe.

“It also has some­thing to do with the pas­sage of 12 years of time, it was a grad­ual thing but I know where you’re com­ing from about (my per­for­mance).

“It is very dif­fer­ent to the way it was in the the­atres of Aus­tralia back then where I was prob­a­bly cling­ing on for dear life. Which I still feel now, prob­a­bly more so on some nights.”

But truth be told, Turner isn’t a live guy un­like many of his rock mates, in­clud­ing Queens Of the Stone Age front­man, Josh Homme, who co-pro­duced their 2009 record Hum­bug.

Play­ing the show­man, em­brac­ing some kind of in­ner rock god meets lounge prince, isn’t his pre­ferred role.

“I prob­a­bly don’t en­joy it as much as it looks like I do,” Turner says.

“I think as time has gone on, if I’m be­ing hon­est, I en­joy the stu­dio side of it more than tour­ing. I’m not one of those peo­ple that it comes nat­u­rally to and I know some of them peo­ple who are born per­form­ers.

“I’m not re­ally sell­ing the show, am I? Ob­vi­ously I don’t dis­like it; it’s a per­for­mance, isn’t it?”

ARC­TIC MON­KEYS, Rod Laver Arena, Mel­bourne, Feb 26 (sold out), 27. Tick­etek

“I THINK AS TIME HAS GONE ON, IF I’M BE­ING HON­EST, I EN­JOY THE STU­DIO SIDE OF IT MORE THAN TOUR­ING”

A NEWLY SHAVEN ALEX TURNER FRONTS THE ARC­TIC MON­KEYS

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