In his first effort as a solo artist, Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner offers a nostalgic, lyrically witty soundtrack for Richard Ayoade’s directorial début, indie comedy Submarine, which is based on Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name.
Between the release of Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug and Suck It and See, Turner offers a heartfelt, charming collection of songs, showing off his lyrical talent and his maturation since the days of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Narrowed down to the bare essentials – acoustic guitar, piano, a mellow drumbeat, and some soft vocals – the Submarine EP is a portrayal of Turner’s true talent.
From the movie’s poster, the film promises an honest portrayal of teenagers in today’s society through the life of the young Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts). Turner’s musical breakthrough in the form of the soundtrack complements Ayoade’s directorial intentions perfectly, with its mix of ballads and a couple of mid-tempo pop tunes.
The film’s opening sequence, introducing the complex teenager Oliver as he non-diegetically promises the audience an honest portrayal of himself, soon introduces us to the first track, ‘Stuck on the Puzzle’. With the backdrop of a calm, seaside town, Oliver narrates aspects of his life as he struggles through manhood. Turner seems like the perfect choice for such a film, with his calming vocals brought to life by the strip-backed musical production, along with his witty, realist lyrics. (Not to mention the fact that Roberts reminds one of Turner back in 2006, when Arctic Monkeys released their début album.)
‘Hiding Tonight’ is introduced as Oliver’s father awkwardly rewards him on successfully getting a girlfriend by giving him a mixed-tape. The cinematography of the sequence which the track leads into between Oliver and Jordana (Yasmin Paige) is complemented by Turner’s soft vocals, giving the film that indie-esque feel it promised from the start. ‘But if you are I am quite alright, hiding today’ croons Turner, emphasising – but not overpowering – Ayoade’s interpretation of the relationship between the two outsiders, who seem to have found themselves with each other’s help.
‘Glass in the Park’ sounds like the whispers of a couple as they make those promises that are maybe a little too hard to keep, especially for the young Oliver and Jordana. As things seem to get worse for the pair, Oliver gets that cassette out, bringing out Turner’s ‘It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind’. With its somewhat depressing lyrics, it doesn’t diminish the whirlwind of emotions of the protagonist.
As the credits roll, ‘Piledriver Waltz’ emerges. Sounding like a strip-backed ‘Cornerstone’ from Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug, you can hear Turner’s maturation and experimentation as he focuses more on the tone and general ambience of the track.
The soundtrack as a whole works well with the themes of Submarine, as Turner’s honest and heartfelt lyrics complement Ayoade’s realist film highlighting the pitfalls of relationships, friendships and marriage. It’s clear that Turner warmed to this new musical direction, as he later reworked ‘Piledriver Waltz’ for the Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album Suck It and See, which generally feels a lot more Submarine-esque than the band’s other albums.
An accomplishment for both Ayoade and Turner cinematographically and lyrically, Submarine does not disappoint.