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A History of the Arctic Monkeys According to Alex Turner's Hair

In anticipation of the British band's new album, let's examine the most important aspect of his career: his hair.

by Alice Oliveri; translated by Cristina Politano
Nov 6 2017, 6:04pm

This article originally appeared on Noisey Italy.

The Arctic Monkeys will release their new album in 2018—or so it seems, according to Nick O'Malley, the band's bassist since 2006. And the Arctic Monkeys haven't recorded anything new since 2013 aside from collaborations and side projects. So, after all these years, there are still those like me (someone who has well surpassed that phase of adolescent mono-obsession with British pop), who are officially counting down the days until they can hear that celestial Sheffield accent once again. There are also those like me who've developed a morbid attachment to the band, and who know very well that the charisma of the Arctic Monkeys is due largely in part to the changeable and irresistible charm of its frontman, Alex Turner.

Sure, Matt Helders' drumming is notable, and you can't attribute beauty of the band's discography to Turner's efforts alone—surely it isn't that simple. But anyone who's experienced Arctic Monkeys mania, even if only for a brief period, knows what I'm talking about: Namely that deep, all-consuming infatuation that people feel towards Alex Turner once they enter in the tunnel of his veneration. This veneration is conveniently referred to as "artistic," but in reality it relies on the fact that Alex Turner is a total babe. To give a sense of the alarming dimension of this musical infatuation, I'll admit that I once waited over four hours, at night and in the bitter cold, outside of a venue in Barcelona—where I had travelled only and exclusively in order to see the Arctic Monkeys play, and where I spent an entire concert waving a poster that said "ALEX, YOU CAN CALL ME ANYTHING YOU WANT!" (for additional proof, please see this video). My wait was supposed to culminate in an eternal union between Turner and myself, but instead concluded with the silent and painful passage of an SUV with tinted windows, and to this day I'm not even sure he was inside of it. Who hasn't done something similar for their adolescent idols?

Pathetic anecdotes aside, at the dawn of what might be a new era of the Arctic Monkeys, I've decided to trace a brief but substantial historiography of the band that corresponds with a fundamental element of their artistic and spiritual growth: Alex Turner's hair, and all of the various phases that are derived from it. I'm absolutely aware that this tribute to their career might seem superficial and frivolous—it's exactly that, actually. But that's the nature of being a fan: They render everything they touch superficial and frivolous. So let's begin with the first historical account of Alex Turner's hair.

2005-2006: Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not, AKA the "don't believe the hype" phase

The Arctic Monkeys have barely exploded, like Turner's hormones, which combines pimples with a Gallagher-esque haircut. In this phase, the little punk from Sheffield—who'd barely removed his high school uniform to don that of an indie musician making his grand debut on MySpace—is unaware of his potential charm, still hidden in the depths of his eyes, which makes him all the more charming in the purest sense of the word. In this way, like the popped collar of his polo and the classic Reeboks from "A Certain Romance," Turner's look and the looks of his bandmates coincide perfectly with the music from their first album: Dirty, bold, inappropriate, and uncertain, like only a 19-year-old knows how to be.

2007-2008: Favourite Worst Nightmare and the partnership with Miles Kane

The band's second album quickly confirms and redoubles the their success, with a thorough and inevitable clean-up job that is artistic and physical. Not yet entirely abandoning the late-teenager with acne look, Turner takes a specific direction thanks to the stylistic support of his side project colleague, Miles Kane. His haircut becomes more sophisticated, an obvious reference to a 1960s aesthetic, channeling his musical selection from the Last Shadow Puppets album and the borderline excessive use of black turtlenecks and a bob haircut, as seen in With The Beatles.

2009-2010: Humbug and the existential crisis

The Arctic Monkey's third record takes a different direction, marking a departure from the first two. Humbug is an under-appreciated album, but I consider it the band's best. Its atmosphere is so different from that of the band's earlier records—it's much darker and devoid of all that bubbly juvenile arrogance. Turner definitively says goodbye to what remained of his youth and also to his barber, sporting a center part and adorably outdated sweaters, reaching in what my opinion is the apex of his career and therefore his beauty. Gone are the aesthetic references to The Beatles and Oasis, and we say hello to long, unkempt hair and very serious songs.

2011: Suck it and See or when Alex Turner discovered the Americas

Suck It and See says goodbye to the melancholy of Humbug and to Alexa Chung, making room for the new and improved Alex Turner who rides a motorcycle and wears exclusively leather jackets. To accompany this biker spirit, he rocks a perennial slicked-back forelock and a deep, crooning voice, which sets the stage for the band's Amerophile phase, which was heavily supported by Josh Homme. There's no room for pimples or Paul McCartney-inspired bobs: Only aggressive guitars, American accents, and rock 'n' roll that's lightly tempered by forays into Turner's former style and the good old days of Submarine. It's unclear whether the music has been affected by Turner's hair or vice versa, but it's clear that something in him has changed, and his newfound occasional use of a comb is proof.

2013: AM and the definitive goodbye to the Old Continent

AM is the album of adulthood in which Alex Turner takes revenge on anyone who took him for a skinny nerd as a child, transforming himself into a hit-and-run bad boy who only drinks whiskey. His forelock now has a life of its own and he alternates his collection of studded leather jackets with white suits à la Elvis Presley. In the later phase of this era, Turner even manages to rock a pair of loafers, anticipating what might be the next incarnation of his persona and the band as a whole. What will be the destiny of this charming and chameleonic artist? Will the next Arctic Monkeys record feature Paul Anka or will Turner change direction again, discovering new and unexpected stylistic horizons?

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