Arc­tic Mon­keys’ slick im­age makeover

Arc­tic Mon­keys hope you like their new sar­to­rial di­rec­tion.

Esquire (UK) - - Contents - By Si­mon Mills

Way, way back in the dim and dis­tant days when pro­vin­cial English gui­tar bands could still stake a claim for pop-cul­tural dom­i­nance (2005), Arc­tic Mon­keys ar­rived as the last of a dy­ing breed: the saviours of rock ’n’ roll. They had the tunes — po­tent sin­gle “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance­floor” went straight to num­ber one, back when go­ing straight to num­ber one meant some­thing — and they had the look: mar­ket-bought anoraks, un­branded polo shirts and borstal boy fag-holds. Or, as Alex Turner’s lyric had it, “clas­sic Ree­boks, or knack­ered Con­verse, or tracky bot­toms tucked in socks.”

By the re­lease of AM, their fifth and best stu­dio al­bum, in 2013, they’d moved on. The mu­sic now em­braced hip-hop beats and Sev­en­ties rock. The look was swag­ger­ing, sneer­ing Link Wray twangers in leather jack­ets and flam­boy­ant Gram Par­sons shirts. They had quiffs and Cuban heels and leggy girl­friends. They looked like the real deal. They were the real deal.

Now, here they are in 2018, launch­ing the oddly ti­tled Tran­quil­ity Base Ho­tel & Casino. Not so much Arc­tic Mon­keys any more as Turner, Helders, Cook, O’Mal­ley and Part­ners. Not so much a rock ’n’ roll band as a louchely at­tired bunch of cor­po­rate fi­nance hot­shots, Euro hedge fun­ders caught be­tween a three­Mar­tini din­ner at Sexy Fish and a night of Cham­pagne carous­ing at Loulou’s.

Here in the real world, we may still be in the grip of eco­nomic aus­ter­ity but the Arc­tics are all gussied up for boom time: four Le Rosey-schooled art dealer Wasps from Man­hat­tan whose age, ton­sure and tailor­ing might pro­vide cougar su­per­model Heidi Klum with fresh quarry for the com­ing sum­mer.

But the Mon­keys aren’t the first band to choose busi­ness over plea­sure when it comes to clob­ber. Like Turner & Co, Heaven 17 come from Sh­effield. With two mem­bers once part of the Hu­man League, a col­lec­tive of slide show op­er­a­tors and synth-twid­dlers who — in their early days at least — were prop­erly odd and gen­uinely coun­ter­cul­tural, in 1981 Heaven 17 chose to move on from lop­sided hair­cuts and songs about alien­ation, swap­ping South York­shire post-in­dus­trial dystopia for im­ages of Thatcherite en­trepreneuri­al­ism and go-get­ters with pony­tails.

Their de­but al­bum, Pent­house and Pave­ment, was il­lus­trated with paint­ings of the band mem­bers do­ing deals, tak­ing phone calls and look­ing at sales graphs, in a brave new world of glass and steel sky­scrapers. They dressed like yup­pies in Paul Smith suits and but­toned-up shirts. “Play to Win”, was one song ti­tle. If you were a teenager and had less than a ten­ner to your name, all this was most con­fus­ing.

Four years later, in 1985, an even more dra­matic lux­ury re­brand took place, when Dexys Mid­night Run­ners, pre­vi­ously best known for a Ro­many/raga­muf­fin look of dun­ga­rees and neck­er­chiefs, launched their Don’t Stand Me Down al­bum dressed as sharp-suited Wall Street traders, in Brooks Broth­ers pin­stripes, with proper shoes and even socks. And sus­pi­ciously clean hair. The al­bum, some­what iron­i­cally, proved to be a dis­as­trous com­mer­cial flop.

But then the Eight­ies was the era of power dress­ing, when pop mu­si­cians as dif­fer­ent as ex-hip­pie Eric Clap­ton, gen­der-bend­ing Sev­en­ties shapeshifter David Bowie and once purist neo-mod Paul Weller, in his new Style Coun­cil guise, all suc­cumbed, at least tem­po­rar­ily, to the al­lure of the smart busi­ness suit.

Will Arc­tic Mon­keys’ de­ci­sion to go from Sh­effield scal­ly­wags to Square Mile ac­coun­tants ap­peal to the mar­ket? And, in­deed, “the mar­kets”?

The smart money says yes.

Mon­key busi­ness­men: the made-over Turner & Co, top, fol­low suit af­ter Heaven 17 and Dexys Mid­night Run­ners, be­low

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