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The closest Arctic Monkeys ever got to country music

(Credit: Zackery Michael)


Mon 11th Sep 2023 14.30 BST

Arctic Monkeys’ charismatic frontman Alex Turner has some of the most enigmatic and eclectic tastes spanning all eras of music. From French pop band Juniore to underground prodigy Lou Reed, the rock singer knows almost no bounds when it comes to influences and personal favourites. Nonetheless, there is one genre that has proven challenging for him to embrace, as its inherent sound and ambience don’t quite align with his own musical sensibilities.

When creating their fourth album, Suck It And See, Turner and his fellow bandmates Matt Helders, Jamie Cook, and Nick O’Malley, along with producer James Ford turned up at the studio every day ready to embrace the project with a slightly different approach than before. Instead of going for the usual – recording in parts, then mixing and overdubbing later – they instead tried to record one track a day live in the studio, a move which enabled them to “concentrate on beefing up the guitar sounds”.

At the time, much of Turner’s writing for the album happened at his home in New York, which meant that he was exposed to more traditional American music than ever before. “I’ve never listened to country music before,” he admitted, “It was just something I totally didn’t get until pretty recently. I’ve always been, ‘Nah, not into that world’, but I’ve started to get something out of that now.”

Then, after dabbling in some of the old country sounds of Nashville, Turner found himself drawn to the genre’s endearing poetic lyricism. “The sort of sounds of that music I’m still not crazy about but the words are really good,” he said. “Like Hank Williams, George Jones and Roger Miller and even Johnny Cash – they’re just smart-arses, those guys, who write good country tunes, y’know. It’s really funny or really sad. And they do that thing so well.”

In fact, encountering the lyrical brilliance of artists like Williams and Cash had a significant influence on his own songwriting. While it’s not challenging to see how Suck It And See, an album rich in love ballads, could capture the romantic essence of country music, especially given Turner’s own lyrical prowess, he identifies ‘Love Is A Laserquest’ as the track that aligns most closely with the sensibilities of country music. “Not like in the sound,” he clarifies, “but in the lyrics”.

‘Love Is A Laserquest’ is one of Arctic Monkeys’ most intensely intimate offerings despite the inherent simplicity of its chord progression. With an introspective lyrical feel reminiscent of country lamentation, Turner muses, “I’ve tried to ask you this in some daydreams that I’ve had /But you’re always busy being make-believe /And do you look into the mirror to remind yourself you’re there? /Or have somebody’s goodnight kisses got that covered?”

While the intricate emotions woven into ‘Love Is A Laserquest’ reflect the sentiments often found in country music, this theme extends to other tracks on the album, blurring the lines between its influence on Turner and his own musical prowess. Regardless, even though Arctic Monkeys may not be venturing into full-fledged country tunes anytime soon, it just goes to show that their music transcends the boundaries of traditional rock and roll.

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