“I poured my aching heart into a pop song
I couldn’t get the hang of poetry
That’s not a skirt girl, that’s a sawn-off shotgun
Can only hope, you’ve got it aimed at me
Suck it and see, you never
Sit next to me before I
Jigsaw women in horror-movie
Be cruel to me, cos I’m a fool for you”
The Arctic Monkeys did their first gig when Alex was seventeen. Just a bit of title-related trivia for you there. While I’ll admit I am basically an Alex Turner fangirl, I think the man genuinely has a brilliant lyrical talent. Matt Wilkinson seems to agree. Only I don’t think it’s some slippery quality that enables Alex to write with such profundity. Not some vague talent or muse. It’s the connectedness, the insight. Not to everyone generally, but to specific and vital parts of our lives. Friendship, love, melancholy, finding purpose or avoiding purpose. More specific: nights out, strange observations on the long walk home, infatuation, lust, surrenders, loss…humaness, haha. Al seems to be able to speak to something deep and internal, not just for me, but for thousands of fans. And if poetry is some marker of success in the realm of words, he’s definitely a poet.
But he’s a poet of the everyday, and in the truest sense: he can process the content of our lives and regurgitate their defining moments in beautiful song. And not to forget the Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane, Josh Homme – he’s got some proper good comrades that transform his wording from masterful to angelic. However, he’s the only one who, through the writing, I know is on the other side of the table with me, offering his glass for a playfully intoned cheers.
Enough of my gushing though. Connection is the theme. Alex has kept producing work since he emerged as a musician/singer/songwriter. He hasn’t really taken a break. This is because he lives the work and the experiences he’s writing about. This is because he’s never really lost track of things in the way that many of us do. With the Arctic Monkeys’ highly successful debut “Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not”, Alex was given everything he needed to write songs and perform forever. So, highly unusually, he took that and never looked back. Never worried substantially about needing to change style just for the audience. He’s changed a lot, sure, but it’s clearly reflecting him and not just what we want from him.
I mean it’s him talking to us from the same side of the bar. One of us, not a reflection of us.
And this is the really weird core it’s generally hard for all people to grasp: that you become closer to others by being comfortable as yourself. Honesty, folks, or as close to that as we can manage. It’s honesty that’s always produced my best work. I’m just quite scared of it. Alex, I reckon, isn’t anywhere near as worried as most of us. All of the fans he has and still baring his soul in songs, retaining his playful character in person, in between songs, in interviews, in recordings. Fame fucks people up and – at least in relative terms – fame has not fucked him up. That’s a damn miracle.
And, for those who are looking, it’s a heart-felt testament to the value of honesty in an artist’s work. Because look, if you can’t connect with yourself, if you can’t engage with how you feel about what has happened and what will happen to you…how can you ever seriously talk to someone else about their lives? And isn’t that most of what we’re doing? Talking, communicating in ever more complicated forms, trying to emphasise or hide our experiences, context depending? That’s art, man.
Last time I was writing about the disembodiment of words, how they carry us away from our immediate selves and into others’ lives and experiences in a very serious and real way. The brain projector kicks up and the body slows down in people who interact with our work, not just words, but all art. The act of communicating. But it’s so much easier to listen, to look, to feel, when that experience shown by someone else is so clearly also in us. There are always points of common ground but I think it’s only in a more-or-less unashamed work that the common ground is well and truly laid beneath the artist’s feet, when you realise that they are with you and not outside of you. The disembodiment becomes less of a departure of one’s soul or spirit into another, and more or a joining of souls. Sounds grand I know, but it’s right.
If the soul is a metaphor for your deepest self, physical, mental, everything that at a moment in time is your core, then it’s only in baring that that you can get other people to focus on you as much as themselves. You know, in philosophy, there are a lot of folks doubting that we even know other people exist. That’s because philosophy is quite an academic field and spends surprisingly little time engaging with the reality it tries to describe. Instead, philosophers ‘proper’ sit in stuffy rooms, often reading smelly books about long dead Greeks and Germans. They have so much to prove – literally they’re not even comfortable admitting they exist, and if they do it’s existence in very carefully defined terms. There’s a place for that sure, but it’s not an especially human pursuit. The part of us that we have to live with our entire lives, the part of us that drives our actions, the clearly and unashamedly human part, needs to be open and without shame. Because that’s how we very loudly and yet informally tell eachother “we are here! And its fucking great!”
I mean sure, maybe in the grand scheme of things something being great is irrelevant. But we’re humans. We’re specific. We’re not Gods or Angels or Fairies or any of that shit. We’re here together, jumbled up and living whether we like it or not, and we have so much room to like it. So much potential for good ting, fine stuff, merriment and happiness.
That’s why I fucking love Alex Turner. He looks a lot like a living embodiment of that truth, an example of how we all should be in our own lives. Full, honest, devoted to the pursuit of our own shit, whatever that is. It really doesn’t have to be, and probably won’t be bad. Because once you start doing that, your thing, you realise that’s just what everyone else is trying to do and whether you like it or not, it puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with all of them. Not in some ivory tower, not driving by in a Rolls Royce or some crap, but at the next desk down or opposite at the table in some café.
Lastly and once again, writers’ block is just failing to recognise that. Nothing grand, but it can pin people for their whole lives. Fuck, it’s so simple. So complex, sure, but so simple. Even if I’ve not proved it right here, take the reins, be yourself, lead your life, you’ve got nothing to lose, pal. I mean this is something we’re likely to be fighting with our whole lives, but…balls to that. Do what you have to do. Find out who you are and be it. Then all your troubles in art and work will evaporate like water boiling pasta.
Have a B-side to set you on your way.
Picture above not mine. Review, educational, beautiful, etc.