So now we finally know the real reason Alex Turner moved to Los Angeles. It wasn’t to work on a killer new Arctic Monkeys album or for the easy access to delicious tacos; it was to use the sweet California sunshine to help his chin follicles flourish and grow a bloody man beard.
Last week, a blurry selfie taken by some holidaying Brits emerged, featuring the frontman at a hip LA bar sporting brand-new facial fuzz. The ever-boyish Turner has finally become a man and he’s got the stubble to prove it; part Satan on his summer holiday, part Mr Tumnus at the Ace Hotel, but full legend. Sure, on the scale of rock ’n’ roll beards Turner’s topiary is a mere tiddler – ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Slayer’s Kerry King would laugh him off the tour bus – but his commitment to growing would make Monty Don proud.
Beards and rock ’n’ roll have had a long, complicated history. When the genre first reared its head, it was as smooth as a Drake chat-up line. In their early days The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were fluff-free, but a few LSD trips and some dabblings in the occult later and out came the beards. A beard now is a sign of maturity, both physically and mentally – it’s shorthand for, “I’ve seen some s**t, guys” – or, in the case of Bon Iver, “I’ve been super-sad and someone’s locked me in a shed and won’t give me a razor until I get over my girlfriend.”
When it comes to the evolution of Turner, his beard is a sign of a new phase of life, much like his move from sportswear to leather or his discovery of hair gel, when he went from floppy-fringed indie kid to slicked-back bad boy. The beard means business – not to mention the fact that we’re five Arctic Monkeys albums in and Turner is fully embracing his thirties. Expect him to be singing about the joys of Farrow & Ball paint and the importance of hop provenance in craft ale on the next record.
Much like the Beatles and Stones before him, the beard could also be a sign of sonic experimentation to come. Thom Yorke is always at his most creative when sporting a full-face bush, while funk pioneer George Clinton has long sported epic bristles. The same goes for production maestro Rick Rubin. Jack White, Eminem, Bob Dylan and Liam Gallagher have all also taken on the hairy trophy at various points in their career, seeking the kind of reverence that only comes along with whiskers. Alex, you had our respect all along, but now you most definitely have our attention too.