Review Summary: A little insubstantial but charming enough to get by.
If you haven’t seen Submarine
yet, and unless you happened to drop by a film festival in the past couple of months that’s probably the case, it’s a wonderful little coming-of-age film that flickers along like something from the mind of a British Wes Anderson. Given the man behind the lens, Richard Ayoade of I.T. Crowd and Mighty Boosh fame, could very well become the British Wes Anderson (if British film critics are to be believed, although you’re always the frontrunner when there isn’t any competition), you’d be forgiven for looking to his soundtrack for an indication of how in tune Ayoade is with his American counterpart (/peer/idol?). Some of Anderson’s greatest scenes have been those carried by the husky crooning of Nico or the wailing of The Kinks and Ayoade’s employed Alex Turner, Arctic Monkey frontman and personal friend going back to Ayoade’s work on three of their videos and feature-length concert film, to strum the story along.
It’s a snug fit too, considering the dry observational wit that first propelled Turner and the Monkeys to fame on the brilliant Whatever People Say I Am…
weaves perfectly into the very quirky, distinctively British nature of the film. Though it’s a shame he’s mostly restricted to a more vague approach, given the music’s purpose as accompaniment and not narrative, it’s incredibly refreshing to listen to a song like ‘Piledriver Waltz’ - new
, clever Turner material – and not feel concerned by the steadying chronological decline of quality in his band’s releases. Don't get me wrong, none of this is exactly vintage Turner either – slow-strummed guitars and pensive pop melodies replace the raucous, perpetually inventive bustle of anything off his band’s debut – but there’s certainly more life here than anything the aloofness of Humbug
put forward, even with the tone of the record pulled back to match the movie's slower, adolescent introversion.
The broody romanticism of songs like “Glass in the Park” can run a bit dour but the heart in the record manages to keep it afloat. There’s little that goes out of its way for your attention but the elegance and restraint is exactly what gives most of the songs, like “It’s Hard To Get Around The Wind” with the preceding “Even if you know which way it’s gonna blow” line, their colour. The songs move between intimate, sardonic and romantic in a way Turner has come to master and they expose an interesting parallel between Turner as a musician/lyricist and many of the themes explored in the film, such as adolescence and the traits of the film's main character, who approaches life in much the same unique manner as Turner is prone to do in his lyrics. It’s important to remember this is just a soundtrack; an assembly of melancholic cuts for a melancholic movie and honestly, that’s enough. Let the math do the talking: five charming new Alex Turner songs plus zero Josh Homme’s leaves us with five charming new Alex Turner songs not creatively suffocated by Josh Homme. That, my friends, is a winning equation.