sun 26/05/2024

Album: Arctic Monkeys - The Car | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Arctic Monkeys - The Car

Album: Arctic Monkeys - The Car

No handbrake turn here yet their direction changes once more

Our musical landcsape really wouldn't be the same without them

Who could really make head or tail of Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino? It was weird. Interesting, occasionally  brilliant, but definitely weird. Now it’s time to almost come back down to earth (but not Sheffield earth, obviously).

Alex Turner’s move from LA to Paris has surely levelled things a tad, and the result is a supremely confident, more mature creation with diverse musical references, orchestration by Bridget Samuels and a lot of falsetto.

Is it any good? Yes. Is it a return to form? If you’re looking for the bangers of yore, no. It’s not pop, it’s not rock n roll, and some parts are so very easy on the ears that we’re teetering on MOR territory. Nevertheless, they’re pushing things forward. As they always do.

Opener and first single “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” starts the cinematic theme. And what initially appears slight and insubstantial (and almost confounded critics upon release) builds into a melancholic masterpiece. In fact, there's little of immediacy anywhere in this release but it's worth putting in the work to get to the magic. Both “I Ain’t Where I Think I Am” and “Jet Skis on the Moat” see a welcome return to some heavier guitar – in fact, surprisingly funky wah-wah guitar (more of this please). But the triumph of the whole is the superlative “Body Paint”, which squeezes in pretty much everything bar the kitchen sink. Sweeping strings, check. Ridiculously catchy refrain, check. Escalates deliciously to a rousing chorus, check. A dash of Abbey-Road-esque genius, well naturally. It’s one of the best things Turner’s ever written and that, of course, is saying something.

What’s new is the retrospection. The past has been a distant territory to Mr Turner until now. But maybe that’s just the vagaries of ageing. Having spent nearly half his life being revered – never far from the top of the charts and with the world at his feet – maybe he’s only now having pause for thought. The evocative title track is a clear example – “it ain’t a holiday until you go to fetch something from the car” – is very much built on childhood memories. Again, it’s a slight piece and I wonder if the whole “concept” of the album would even have happened if it weren’t for Matt Helder’s cover photo. (Fun fact, there’s a reference to cars on every one of their seven albums. I checked). 

As has become the way, lyrics range from the sublime “yesterday’s still leaking through the roof” to the ridiculous “Lego Napoleon movie written in noble gas-filled glass tubes underlined in sparks. I’ll admit it’s elaborate for a waking thought.” We’re not going to spend a generation trying to figure any of it out.

Sinister and brooding, “Sculptures of Anything Goes” is the result of Jamie Cook’s sonic experiment feeding drum sounds through a Moog. “Mr Schwartz”, on the other hand, gave me the shudders. It is reminiscent of Robbie Williams’ “No Regrets”. Not a comparison I thought I would be making. But just when you think it’s time to hit fast forward, the recently criminally underused Helders intervenes with a surprising bossa nova beat which somehow pulls it all together. Let’s just say it’s more than the sum of its parts (and has led to fevered speculation about the name – Delmore Schwartz or not?).

The final line of the album (“If that's what it takes to say goodnight then that's what it takes”) hints at this being the end of the road for the band, as does the lyric “the ballad of what could've been, over and out, really, its been a thrill” in “Big Ideas”. Turner recently denied this in an interview with the Guardian, saying he couldn’t do it without the others and producer James Ford. Our musical landcsape really wouldn't be the same without them. Hopefully there is more to come. After the almost inevitable Bond theme. HA!

There's little of immediacy anywhere in this release, but it's worth putting in the work to get to the magic


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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