herald

Sunday 19 August 2018

celebration

Not since genius business tycoon Howard Hughes went doolally has there been a disappointment so great.

When Arctic Monkeys released their debut single, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, in 2005, the world saluted. Deservedly, the single went straight to No 1, knocking established contenders out of the park. Here was a fresh young band with energy, drive, a bright, brash sound and a sharp, yet coolly observed lyricism.

Hysteria ensued.

Their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, confirmed that main man Alex Turner had a rare gift for turning everyday events, the all-too-familiar, mundane and humdrum set pieces of our daily grind, into thrilling, sometimes anthemic, rock'n'roll celebrations.

We'd seen something like it in the work of Ray Davies and Morrissey. But Turner and his mates were doing it for themselves and seemed astute enough to avoid the pitfalls of unrestrained critical acclaim.

But by their second album things were coming unstuck. By then Turner was recording with his mate Miles Kane as The Last of the Shadow Puppets. There were signs that Arctic Monkeys believed they'd entered an artistic cul-de-sac.

Their solution was to record Humbug, with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. Tragically, it proved to be even more cumbersome than ploddy old Oasis. Although an established favourite on the festival circuit, it seemed the magic sparkle had fizzled out.



mystery

Today, Turner has homes in Britain and the USA. He probably has all the requisite music references at his fingertips, a fan's love of mystery at the heart of rock'n'roll and the ability to put it all together on one great, insightful album of enduring songs.

Unfortunately, on evidence of these 12 tracks, he hasn't accessed the essential inspiration. And, for a band who promised so much, that's a major disappointment.

There are plus points. The sound is closer to the brash, buzzy band of old. And Turner hasn't lost his ability to turn out a grabby couplet and epigrammatic bon mot. Reckless Serenade is notable for not trying too hard. It's got a delightful melody and clocks in at 2.38. "Illuminations on a rainy day, when she walks, her footsteps sing a reckless serenade . . ."

You want the band to hit the motherlode and, time after time, it sounds that they've found it. There's a winsome tug in Love Is A Laserquest but it amounts to little. Turner's vocal on opening track, She's Thunderstorms, is reassuringly familiar. But, for all the bluster, the songs remains trapped in its own headlock.

The Hellcat Spangled Shalala has bounce but it can't erase the frightful pub rock racket of Brick By Brick. HHHII

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