There are many bands that make more interesting music than the Arctic Monkeys. Many artists write cleverer lyrics, or catchier hooks, or more emotionally-resonant melodies. The Monkeys’ style isn’t particularly unique––they emulate yesterday’s rock-and-roll bands in a similar fashion to groups like The Strokes, The Black Keys, and Tame Impala. Most of their songs sound pretty similar, with frontman Alex Turner’s smoky vocals supported by hyper guitar riffs, smooth bass lines, and simple drum beats, somehow sounding simultaneously sleepy and aggressive.
And yet, despite all these factors, the Arctic Monkeys are the coolest band in the world. Their music isn’t the best, they’re not the most energetic performers, and their compositions aren’t particularly complex, but for some reason, they embody the word “cool” better than any other artist. The Arctic Monkeys somehow take coolness in its purest form of abstraction and convert it into a tangible rock performance.
The Arctic Monkeys’ coolness was on full display at the Santa Barbara Bowl on October 19. The band’s current tour, in support of their new album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” is perfectly executed––the setlist draws from every album, and seamlessly alternates between the band’s different styles. The show began with the new album’s opening track “Star Treatment,” a mid-tempo song that recalls David Bowie’s early work and features Turner on keyboard. Turner’s devil-may-care attitude was immediately apparent––in a scene straight out of a movie, he came onstage and dropped a nearly-extinguished cigarette at his feet, then stomped it out two minutes later without a single glance.
Immediately after the last note of “Star Treatment,” the drummer began the beat for the Monkeys’ biggest commercial hit, “Do I Wanna Know?”, and Turner quickly grabbed his guitar to play the song’s iconic opening riff. The third song, “Brainstorm,” was one of the fastest tracks of the night, concluding with a ridiculous drum solo.
Later, “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” from the band’s debut album was a definite standout, as it inspired a comically tiny mosh pit near the front of the venue. “Mad Sounds” prompted many fans to pull out their phone flashlights and lighters as they collectively swayed to the evening’s slowest song. The main set concluded with “Four Out of Five,” the lead single from the new album, and was followed by a three-song encore that ended with an extended version of “R U Mine?”
The band’s instrumental performances sound almost identical to their studio recordings, only deviating to further enhance the cool factor by adding guitar and drum solos or giving Turner’s vocals the spotlight for dramatic a capella interludes. Ultimately, the Monkeys are talented, suave, and, above all else, professional. Entertaining is their job, and they want to ensure that everyone in the audience gets their money’s worth.