No frontman has played a more significant part in dominating the 21st Century cultural landscape as Arctic Monkeys leader Alex Turner. His lyrics struck a chord from the first moment that the band burst onto the scene back in 2005 and he hasn’t’ looked back since.
Since their breakthrough, Turner has flexed his lyrical muscles profusely over the last couple of decades, producing an arsenal of work with Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets, and a solo artist who has cemented his status as an icon despite only being in his mid-thirties.
Along with his Arctic Monkeys bandmates Jamie Cook, Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley, they were immediately treated as heroes from their very first single as a group, ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Given their meteoric rise, they were then quickly hailed as being the ‘voice of a generation’ and, unlike the large majority who get tagged with that moniker, they lived up to the expectation. Over six albums they have proven that if there was one band to hang your hat on, then at least the Sheffield boys were robust enough to do it. Six studio albums have not only proven their music-making prowess but more importantly the evolution they have been on over this period.
Turner has never been content on just creating music with Arctic Monkeys, and he is a firm believer in the art of collaboration, most notably with The Last Shadow Puppets. Following Arctic Monkeys’ second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, Turner decided to mix things up by forming a side-project with Miles Kane that allowed him to showcase a different side to his artistry. The group released their debut record, The Age Of The Understatement, in 2008, which they then followed up eight years later with Everything You’ve Come To Expect. In 2011, Turner also shared his only solo record from the soundtrack he created for Richard Ayoade’s masterpiece, Submarine.
Alex Turner has grown up simultaneously with a large chunk of his audience, a fanbase which has traversed through their own long-haired Humbug phase or slick AM period themselves. It is that connection with their fans that other bands lack. If somehow you’ve remained under a rock for the fifteen years, then below we’ve got you covered. We’ve ranked Turner’s studio albums in order of greatness to give you the perfect place to begin your fascination with him as an artist.
Ranking Alex Turner albums worst to best:
9. Everything You’ve Come To Expect (2016)
Working with The Last Shadow Puppets is something that Alex Turner adores; he gets to create music and work with one of his best friends, Miles Kane, without the pressure that comes with being in the Arctic Monkeys. Everything You’ve Come To Expect isn’t a bad record by any stretch of the imagination, it has some truly great moments, but it’s far from Turner’s magnum opus.
Tracks like ‘Miracle Aligner’ and ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ show Turner’s magical touch for songwriting. It also hints at the direction that the Arctic Monkeys were about to take flight on with their next record. Whilst the fiery Fall inspired ‘Bad Habits’ is exciting, overall, the record isn’t quite sure what exactly it is, and it lacks the coherency that oozes out of his other releases.
8. Suck It and See (2011)
Released in 2011, Suck It and See is the sound of a band firmly in transition as they travelled to the destination which would spawn 2013’s AM. Compared to the rest of their catalogue, the album doesn’t quite understand it is as it manoeuvres around being both classic and contemporary. The record has a liberating charm to it as it captures snapping out of their Humbug era and is their first record since moving out to Los Angeles, as they let their desert years commence.
The band successfully moved away from Humbug but failed to land on a sound that was immediately a perfect fit for them. There are some fine highlights on the record, such as the fire cracking ‘Brick By Brick’ that showed that there was no end to Arctic Monkeys’ versatility. The slower anthemic tracks that dominate the end of the record are sublime such as the title track and epic closer, ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’.
7. Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
The dreaded ‘second album syndrome’ threatened to derail the Arctic Monkeys. Having such a landmark debut record in their arsenal meant that the pressure had increased tenfold by the time they came to recording the follow-up, Favourite Worst Nightmare. This was a challenge that the Arctic Monkeys emphatically rose to, songs like ‘Old Yellow Bricks’, ‘Brianstorm’, ‘Teddy Picker’ and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ were instant classics.
Because this album was released only little over a year after their debut, they still were those four lads living in Sheffield. However, they were now in the country’s biggest band and no longer living for sticky dancefloors on the weekend.
It’s also the first album to feature Nick O’Malley on bass having replaced the previous member Andy Nicholson who departed the band before they toured North America in support of the debut. With O’Malley’s introduction, the sound dramatically changed, and their previous razor-sharp buzzsaw sound got heavier and much, much louder.
6. The Age Of The Understatement (2008)
The Last Shadow Puppets’ 2008 debut came straight off the back following Favourite Worst Nightmare and proved that Alex Turner was no one-trick pony. The softer sound was a step away from the blistering non-stop action sound that the Arctic Monkeys perfected on their first two albums and provided a great glimpse at what future lies ahead for Turner.
This album was more reminiscent of a film soundtrack than the sort of firebrand music previously intrinsically linked to Turner. Ennio Morricone and Serge Gainsbourg’s influences shined bright onto an album, in Turner’s lyricism especially. The Last Shadow Puppets aren’t a traditional indie outfit, which allowed the Arctic Monkeys frontman to escape any conventions resulting in The Age Of The Understatement marking a turning point in his career.
5. Humbug (2009)
Following The Age Of The Understatement seemingly freeing Turner from any conventional path, he returned to the fold with Arctic Monkeys, and the result was the uber satisfying Humbug. The album is undoubtedly the band’s heaviest to date, and they don’t pull any punches on the record. Humbug was a sonic exploration aided in no small part by Queens of the Stone Age lead singer, Josh Homme. The LA legend helped the band write the songs on the record, and his influence can be felt in the distorted guitars and vibrations one feels in their chest when listening to the LP.
‘Crying Lightning’ may be the most notable song on the LP, they fire on all cylinders on the gorgeous, ‘My Propeller’ and the dauntingly captivating, ‘Pretty Visitors’. It still had that angst that made millions fall in love with their first couple of albums, but they just fine-tuned it into a much darker and twisted beast on Humbug. This record most importantly proved that Arctic Monkeys were out to make music for themselves and themselves only.
4. Submarine (2011)
The 2011 EP, Submarine, is the most beautiful piece of work that he’s created throughout his career from start to finish. It’s an example of the kind of route he could have gone down if he wasn’t involved in one of the world’s great rock bands and is the most suitable proof of his wild artistry.
All of the six songs that feature on the soundtrack are utterly gorgeous, ‘Piledriver Waltz’ was deemed too good to not bring into the world of the Arctic Monkeys and then went on to appear reimagined on Suck It And See, which lacks the magic of the stripped-back original.
Turner explained to GQ in 2011: “The Submarine soundtrack wasn’t me having these aspirations to make a solo record and fucking conquer the world. My friend, Richard [Ayoade], had directed this wonderful film and he asked me to first of all do a few covers for it, and then it turned into a couple of original songs, and they weren’t going anywhere in an Arctic Monkeys sorta world.”
The fact that Turner can effortlessly create songs like this and apart from this release which most artists would kill to have in their repertoire is a testament to his genius. The only negative about the release is that it is only six songs long if it had another six songs it would likely top this fine list.
3. AM (2013)
Although this record would be many people’s numero uno, especially the stateside Monkeys fans, unfortunately, the impressive AM will have to settle for third place. Arctic Monkeys had been the most prominent band for close to a decade before releasing this record in 2013. Still, this album made everybody across the world who hadn’t previously taken notice realise their greatness.
AM sees the group perfect the sound they attempted to master previously on Suck It And See two years prior and were firmly the finished product by the time they got back into the studio to create their fifth LP.
It feels like a deliberate attempt for the band to become a commercial powerhouse, songs like ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘R U Mine’, ‘Arabella’ and ‘Do I Wanna Know’ were impossible to avoid. AM feels like Turner proving that he can write heavyweight rock anthems at the drop of a hat and for the last eight years he has resisted returning to the sound he conquered on this masterpiece.
2. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)
The most recent LP from the Arctic Monkeys very nearly took the top spot as their best. It’s a decision which we’re sure will divide fans as quickly as when Alex Turner confirmed that most of this album, unlike the rest of their catalogue, was written primarily on a piano. Whether it was because rock’s last great hope had turned to a piano or just a reaction to the change of musical pace — but the album had a habit of upsetting their fans.
If you were such a fan and the change of musical direction came as an unwelcome shock to you, then you really should have been paying more attention. Throughout their entire career, the group have always moved at their own pace and with their own style, it seems fitting that after five years without an LP their next would be a huge statement. Turner hinted at this change on the second Last Shadow Puppets record, but, what he didn’t get quite right on that album he made up for on the dazzling Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
A concept album of sorts, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino draws heavily from science fiction and film and explore themes of consumerism, politics and religion through the idea of a luxury resort on the moon. With this instruction, Turner offers fans a view of a band who had irrevocably changed and not just from his vocals. The record was a far cry from AM, but, Turner didn’t need to return to a more commercial sound, and like Humbug, this was a record that he needed to get off his chest.
1. Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not (2006)
This album is up there with the finest debut albums of all time. It’s not just Turner’s best effort but one of the greatest British albums sitting in the pantheon of music history. They crammed this vibrant energy into every single second of their 2006 debut, that saw them fill a cultural black hole and soundtracked Saturday nights all over the country.
The Sheffield young upstarts already had a number one song under their belts with ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ and despite protestations from their lead singer Alex Turner, many people had already begun to believe the hype.
Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not would win the Mercury Music prize in 2006. The record would encapsulate a misspent youth’s crystalline feeling and still acts as a time capsule for many who had some of the best nights of their life intrinsically linked to this record. There’s not been a record released since that has had the same cultural impact as the Arctic Monkeys’ debut and in the age of streaming, it’s hard to see that magic ever being recaptured once more.