Alex Turner

Submarine OST EP

Rating: 3.6/5.0

Label: Domino

Remember the cynical, smug, generally badass look of the Violet May’s Chris McClure on the cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not? That snapshot encapsulated the raw power of the band’s first appearance; laid back but aggressive, cool, but not overly pretentious, McClure’s sweaty head and squinted eyes defined the music captured within that record. The same can be said for Monkeys frontman Alex Turner’s first solo outing. Craig Roberts, the young lead of Richard Ayoade’s film debut, contributes a blank, confused, prepubescent stare to the cover of the Submarine EP, hinting at the existential, coming-of-age themes that both Turner and the film explore.

At first, Turner might seem to some an odd choice to provide the music for a small-budget, quirky family drama. His rough vocals and quick turns of phrase don’t exactly epitomize the nature of the “pensive indie flick.” Though his sharp vocal turns are still intact, Submarine sees Turner churning out bare-bones acoustic tracks, with sparse instrumental accompaniment, toning down the heavy feedback and raucous percussion of his Arctic Monkeys recordings. Turner first shows us his hushed delivery on opener “Stuck on the Puzzle (Intro),” a minute-long, lead-in track that boasts the mission statement: “I’m not the kind of fool/ Who’s going to sit and sing to you/ About stars.” The statement proves false though, as Turner immediately transports us into a dreamy realm of love and imagination. “Hiding Tonight,” a gently strummed ode to small, isolated moments of happiness, is particularly affective in its emotional evocation. Turner’s voice barely trickles out of his mouth in a smooth, mellow croon, washing over lines such as, “But if you are/ I am quite alright/ Hiding tonight.” “Glass in the Park” and “It’s Hard to Get Around The Wind” work to similar effect, as hints of reverb decorate the fingerpicked guitars while Turner spins tales of childhood innocence.

Though the coming-of-age theme can be a slippery slope to explore, Turner manages to avoid most of the pitfalls, portraying a sense of naiveté without relying on generic clichés. His tranquil delivery brings a sense of intimacy to the material, allowing the overarching theme of impending adolescence and responsibility to hold more emotional weight. The placid EP comes to a head with closer “Piledriver Waltz,” a jangly, piano-driven tune that shimmers alongside the spare acoustic tracks. If Submarine condenses the experience of adolescence-the ebb and flow of a sanguine perspective perpetuated by childhood imagination-then the closing track is the final move into adulthood. With a hook-laden chorus, “Piledriver Waltz” understands that personal hardships can either become lifelong grudges or mere footnotes in a period of growth; As Turner states, “Your waitress was miserable and so was your food/ If you’re gonna try and walk on water/ Make sure you wear comfortable shoes,” both lamenting and encouraging the fervent optimism of the preceding tracks.

It’s that misguided but dedicated optimism that makes Submarine such a worthwhile listen, even when consumed outside the context of the film. Turner, a man who’s used to barraging his listeners with a swift delivery, revels in a balanced restraint here. It’s a welcome change of pace for the Arctic Monkeys frontman; short and sweet, Submarine straps on just enough emotional baggage while never overstaying its welcome.

by Kyle Fowle

Key Tracks: Piledriver Waltz, Hiding Tonight

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