The Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner had just one shot at becoming successful as a musician before his parents, who were budding music fanatics, expected him to pursue the more prudent and realistic path of university education followed by a nine-to-five grind.
In his late teens, Turner formed the band with his longtime school friends Matt Helders and Andy Nicholson. Early on, they played gigs across their home county of Yorkshire, rapidly garnering attention and respect as a band with true potential.
The most pivotal moment for Arctic Monkeys came in early 2006, when, following the release of the singles ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘When the Sun Goes Down’, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not hit the shelves to become the decade’s most celebrated debut album.
The success of Arctic Monkeys’ first album was in no small part rooted in Turner’s catchy turn of phrase, which has remained a constant boon for the band through six subsequent albums. What hasn’t remained constant, however, is the musical style and subject matter.
In 2018, the Sheffield indie icons divided fans with an opulent trip to the lunar holiday destination, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, before returning to earth in 2022 for a transatlantic baroque-pop odyssey in The Car.
Naturally, these two most recent albums have been divisive among fans, with some urging the group to return to the urban realism of their debut album. However, one must admire Arctic Monkeys for keeping their sound fresh and authentic to their current situation. A return to Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not would likely feel contrived and repetitive. Instead, it’s more intriguing to keep up to date with a sonic and poetic abstraction of Turner’s diary.
Many fans appear to draw a line between 2011’s Suck It and See and 2013’s AM as the point at which Arctic Monkeys departed from their British roots thematically. AM’s anthemic prowess undoubtedly saw the band claim more overseas territory as they became a global stadium-filling phenomenon, but the transition was gradual.
For instance, much of Suck It and See was written during overseas touring commitments and showed early signs of the stylistic growth to come. Incidentally, ‘Brick by Brick’, a song written on the road in Miami, took shape as the band reflected on their evolution to date and set out goals for the future.
“We were in Miami on tour once, and we just got off a long flight to there, and we had an idea for a song called ‘Brick By Brick’, and so we wrote it that night just sorta in a bar,” Turner told the NME in 2011. “But it was quite loose, we thought about it as the concept of a song and all these things that you want to do- brick by brick- and we just made a list of them that was probably three times as long as what it ended up over that night and the next few weeks.”