Arctic Monkeys – The Car
In 2018, when Alex Turner declared that he had grown tired of guitar music and had instead turned to the piano, fans were eager to see where the Arctic Monkeys might head next. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, released the same year, was a work more inspired by Serge Gainsbourg and film soundtracks than rock’n’roll. It was a daring move for a group who had opened their career with the indie anthem I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor and for Turner, who, back in 2014, had given a glorious speech in defence of rock’n’roll, which, according to the musician, “was never meant to go away”.
The jazz-influenced sound that identifies Tranquility marked a natural evolution for the Arctic Monkeys. What’s striking about the band is how, throughout their career, they’ve progressed without losing their originality; whilst other groups attempted new sounds and failed miserably, Turner and co flourished as performers and reached a musical maturity that places them among the best bands in the world. New album The Car (out today on Domino) is a vivid example. Here, the Arctic Monkeys continue the journey that was at the core of Tranquility, transporting the listener from the spacey mood of the last album to earthlier, melancholic atmospheres. It’s a record built on soaring strings and gorgeous melodies, where Turner often sings in falsetto – as in the outstanding Body Paint, a sumptuous re-envisioning of classic Monkeys.
The Car is a nuanced work that discloses its multiple layers the more one listens: it can be funky, for example in I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am (which sees the Monkeys at their most Sly & the Family Stone), or reminiscent of 60s French music as in the magnificent Big Ideas. There is the grandiosity of the synth-driven Sculptures of Anything Goes and the elegance of the first single, There’d Better Be a Mirror Ball, with the line “Got yesterday still leaking through the roof ain’t nothing new” being one of the best lyrics Turner has ever written.
The record is filled with similar moments. If Arctic Monkeys fans are used to Turner’s cryptical lyrics, here, the singer’s writing becomes more open whilst maintaining a taste for the surreal: “do your time travelling through the tanning booth / so you don’t let the sun catch you crying”, sings Turner on Body Paint.
Produced by James Ford, who has been with the Arctic Monkeys since their second album, The Car feels painfully human: there are breakups, there is disillusion towards “the business they call show”, and “tears that are coming on”. It might be another step away from “that rock’n’roll”, but The Car is destined to become a classic in the ever-astonishing Arctic Monkeys’ catalogue.
The Car is released on 21st October 2022. For further information or to order the album visit Arctic Monkeys’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Body Paint here: