Los Angeles Rock manager, Vicky Hamilton, famous for managing some of the most well-known names in 80’s Rock (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Poison, Mötley Crüe, Faster Pussycat) and author for ‘Appetite For Dysfunction’ her book about her career writes an article about Arctic Monkeys new album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, up close and personal positive view of their album live at Le Zénith, Paris on the 30th May 2018.
We arrived in Paris with the major downpour and thunderstorms, which seemed perfectly timed for me. Perhaps my story with the Arctic Monkeys had gone full circle? You see back in the summer of 2017, as I was writing a new chapter for the second edition of my autobiography, Appetite For Dysfunction, I had decided that “She’s Thunderstorms,” off the Arctic Monkeys 2011 release, Suck It And See recording was my motivational theme song. I would play it to give me strength, to keep going and remind me who I really was...
“Here is your host/sounds as if she’s pretty close/when the heat starts growing horns / she's thunderstorms”
Arctic Monkeys - from the song ‘She’s Thunderstorms’
That’s the thing about the Arctic Monkeys; the music is powerful, yet sensitive and tells
your story while telling their own. Which is why I think the band’s fans have stayed so loyal.
I must admit that I became an Arctic Monkeys fan late in the game. In the band’s early days, their name was off putting to me. I thought that they were probably monkey business tricksters in spirit, and that I had already outlived my teenage rebellion. The only songs I had been exposed to at the time were their hits: “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor,” “When The Sun Goes Down” and later, “Teddy Picker.” I wrote them off as college students, weekend warriors that would be played while dancing at frat houses and slugging down shots at beer bashes. I could see the merit early of the hits, but saw the value for only teens, foolishly I didn’t dig any deeper.
Being a woman of a certain age, I had already lived through those years with 70’s- 80’s rock bands such as the Sex Pistols, Ramones and later bands I had worked with such as Guns N’ Roses.
I am always looking for something with more substance... not so angry, something with meaning, a band that would explain and define the world I live in, not defy it.
Then in 2013 I heard, “Do I Want To Know?” on the radio while driving down Laurel Canyon Blvd. on my way to a meeting in Hollywood, California. First listen to the track and I already loved it. The throbbing back beat, similar to my own heartbeat and the crooning vocal begging, Do I wanna know? I couldn’t make out in my mind who the band was, and as a personal manager and A&R person for three decades, I had to know.
I pulled my car over and “Shazamed” the track on my iPhone to find out who it was. I was surprised to learn it was The Arctic Monkeys, and this is where my love affair with their music started. Later that day, I purchased the AM record and loved every track.
Being in the music business so many years has made me a very skeptical and jaded rock fan. I have seen so many bands come and go and I am always searching for that something special. I can’t really define what I am looking for, only to call “it,” but I just know “it” when I see and hear “it.” I want to hear something truly unique, inspired, with lyrics that can take you on a journey, including passionate well-crafted music and a stage performance that captures the theme of the songs. I have found all of this in Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys.
Alex Turner hails from the suburbs of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom. Sheffield is a college town, and Turner is an only child born to two school teachers. Perhaps Turners upbringing is why he is such a lyrical crafty storyteller. Turner and drummer Matt Helders were childhood friends, they practiced in garages and after awhile settled on the line-up of reluctant singer Alex Turner, who also played guitar, Matt Helders on drums and vocals, Jamie Cook on lead guitar and original bassist Andy Nicholas, later to be replaced by Nick O'Malley. The band burned CDs and gave them away to get kids to come to the clubs to see them. The Monkey’s were one of the internet’s first musical success stories. The band’s MySpace page started blowing up and they then released an indie album. In 2005 the Arctic Monkeys signed with Domino Records. Many major labels were interested to sign the band but the band and management liked Laurence Bell, the label‘s owner, who only signed bands he liked personally. The Arctic Monkeys remain on Domino today and have had six releases, including their massive 2013 hit, AM, which was very critically acclaimed and achieved triple platinum sales in the UK as well as being the breakthrough album in the US, scoring RIAA platinum.
After a long tour and a five- year hiatus, the new Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino was just released May 11th 2018.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of the new album a week or so before its release. At first, I was blown away be the radical left turn of the sound and feel of Tranquility Base Hotel +Casino. Gone were the romantic crooner power ballads and rock anthems replaced by a concept collection of songs that come together in an other worldly place, perhaps the moon. In this place, Alex Turner lets his fragmented ideas tell a story of isolation even if he is in a crowded room. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but the more I listened to this recording, the more I began to understand where it was coming from. Much like a good Radiohead album, the more you listen, the more you hear. The world has become a very different place, where the idea of division is somewhat more appealing than coming together in the face of love. Particularly living in America, it’s frightening to hear our President want to lock out immigrants, build walls, skyrocket healthcare prices and destroy the environment. Lets face it, to quote Turner,
“The leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks. He’s got him sen a theme tune. They play it for him as he makes his way to the ring”
Arctic Monkeys - from the song ‘Golden Trunks’
The five -year absence of the Arctic Monkeys had left their fans thirsty for the AM follow up. Like any true visionary, which I believe Alex Turner is, he had to risk a sharp left turn in his artistry. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is a place we can go for escapism. It explores introspection of the soul, saying the things we have all thought but were afraid to express. The album also touches on how tech devices effectively inefficacious control our lives, as well as how our own dark thoughts can become reality. Then there is a playful side to the album with songs like “She Looks Like Fun,” this song has become my favorite boosting:
“Smile like you’ve got a straw in something tropical. I’ve got the party plugged right into my skull”
Arctic Monkeys - from the song ‘She Looks Like Fun.’
Turner began writing songs on piano instead of his beloved guitar for this record, saying that the piano tricked him into writing something fresh, he didn’t want to write love songs this time around. So he put the bare bones together and then invited the band to add their parts.
So much about Alex Turner reminds me of David Bowie. They have similar vocal tones, they’re both from the United Kingdom and have always challenged themselves to stay current and yet original, being the artistic chameleon. Bowie believed that if you hit a bull’s eye every time, you were standing too close to the target and I applaud this quality in Alex Turner as well. Whether Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino has the success of the past Arctic Monkeys records or not, it was a brave step on to a new planet of creativity.
Arriving in Paris for my first time felt surreal. I had somewhat of a television view of how it would be, as I have fantasies about Paris since I was a little girl. My beautiful friend, Sabina Donnelly and I flew in from London for a two- day Paris junket. The Arctic Monkeys’ concert was to be held at the Zenith. Paris resident and cynic, Rodney Prosser, a musician who makes a living teaching French to English was our perfect tour guide, since we were very challenged by this foreign tongue. I love the cobblestone streets, shops and Bistros. The Eiffel Tower stood majestically even in the rain. I could hear romantic French music in my head as I gazed at river Seine. I was able to find some “love locks” padlocks even though the city took them off the Pont des Art bridge in 2015. So I guess the city of Paris, even if the Parisian are now against it, is still the city of love. Not too mention, I had the best chocolate éclair I have ever had.
The Zenith, the venue where the Arctic Monkeys performed, is a 4000 seat location sort of resembled an oversize high school gymnasium, bleachers with school chairs on top. The band sold out two consecutive nights there.
While sitting waiting for the Cameron Avery to take the stage, I noticed the new backdrop was missing the “Arctic” and said only “Monkeys “ which suggested to me a new era of the band was beginning.
I had seen the Arctic Monkeys in Hollywood at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 5, 2018. It was one of the first dates on the tour, and the first time I had ever seen the band live. I stood close to the soundboard and I’ve got to say it was epic sound, like we were listening to a live recording. The band did a mix of the hits and favorites only playing a few of the new songs prior to the release of the new record. Outdoors in a cemetery where you could see headstones through the fog, it was clear the band could raise the dead.
Cameron Avery, a musician from Australia opened the show in Paris. Avery on the piano in a white jacket with accompaniment of bass and drums played a sweet set. Cam said “The last time I was in Paris it was my birthday, ” then went into his song C’est Toi, a beautiful ballad filled with passion. He followed up with a lovely new song that he said was so new he didn’t even have a name for it yet. Cameron Avery was also instrumental on guitar on “Four Out Of Five” and keyboards and box on “She Looks Like Fun” in the Arctic Monkeys’ set. Avery also toured with Turner's’ other side project with Miles Kane, The Last Shadow Puppets.
The Arctic Monkeys took the stage with flashing red lights and a repeating emergency tone that sounded a bit like the tone used when the shark attacks in Jaws the movie. The familiar bass line of new single “Four Out Of Five” kicked in and the crowd went wild. Turner slinked across the stage in long hair, an earth tone suit and white shirt having the moves and voice of a 60’s Vegas performer. It was apparent that the crowd knew and accepted this new sound /look as they screamed and sang along. In addition to the fulltime band members, guest appearances were made by; Tyler Parkford on keys, Tom Rowley also on keys and additional guitars, and Cam Avery. Matt Helders is one of the best drummers out there and when this sonic beast kicked in with the beat of “Brianstorms” the crowd was losing their mind. On the bleachers where we were, the thought crossed my mind that they may collapse from all the jumping up and down.
On the floor every fist was up in the air in support. The band did a mix of old hits like “Do Me A Favour,” “Cornerstone” and one of my favorites, which was last in the set, “505.” The twenty- song set which included four new ones and tour debuting “Batphone” were well received. They played five songs off of the AM record which were magic for me, as I have spent the past five years listening to this album in LA traffic jams and singing along. Two of the AM songs “Arabella” and “R U Mine” finished out the encore. Jamie Cook seemed to have fun teasing the crowd with his sexy seductive guitar lead on “Arabella” and Turner had the crowd begging to be his on “R U Mine?” In this 90 minute set, it was so hot in the venue by the end I thought we would pass out, and when the lights went up, we were released to the streets of Paris, in yes, another thunderstorm. Perfect.
Catch the tour if you can. Dates on their website at arcticmonkeys.com. Do yourself a favor and give this new sound a chance, if you do, I promise you will see a new giant in the making. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another five years for more.