December 1, 2022

Arctic Monkeys – The Car Review

If 2018’s lunar adventure “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” had longtime Arctic Monkeys fans in disarray, with the Sheffield icons ditching pomade and rock riffs for a sleazy lounge sound, it’s unlikely “The Car” wins back many defectors. But on the band’s seventh album, which needs no introduction, we sense that blazer-wearing author Alex Turner is having too much fun to care. Its ten lavish soft-rock tracks feel like the album the 36-year-old has long aspired to make – for better or worse.

In the past, cinephile Alex has flirted with the world of cinema. On ‘AM’ he referenced Scorsese; Through the “Tranquillité…” campaign, he himself became a bearded director, brandishing analog cameras on stage and in videos. In 2011, he scored Richard Ayoade’s independent film “Submarine”, but although there was no accompanying film, “The Car” is the closest work to the soundtrack of Alex and the team so far, flowing together in a long move made cohesive by Bridget Samuels. ‘ lush orchestral arrangements that adorn it.

From the heartbreaking crescendo of ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ to the Moody Blues percussion of the title track, ringing like distant thunder, to the strings of ‘Hello You’, which seem to meander around Matt Helders’ unwavering drums, monkeys have never seemed so evocative (even on “Sculptures Of Anything Goes,” whose spooky accumulation recalls the weirdest moments of “Humbug”). Clues spring from the fact that it’s still a rock band you’re hearing – ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ suggests Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and their own heady hit ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High”. ?’, while bursts of Jamie Cook’s glam guitar electrify ‘Body Paint”s epic outro – but band and orchestra merge seamlessly, never feeling intimidated together.

Examine his script and the wheels of “The Car” begin to loosen. Alex’s dazzling pun has long been the golden arrow in the monkey’s quiver. Here, however, his lyrics are so dense and elusive that they contradict the sincerity of some songs and ultimately feel prejudicial. “Come here and give your homie a hug,” he sings on “Jet Skis On the Moat.” “It’s okay if you want to cry.” The touching sentiment conjures up images of male friendship or discussions of mental health, but it’s subdued by the aesthetic of “smoke, pajama pants and a Subbuteo cape.” A single line from “Hello You” reads: “As this winding chapter draws to a close and leaves us in a small daze, this electric warrior’s motorcade will burn no more rubber on this boulevard.” Of course, good songwriters don’t lay out everything for the listener, and Alex’s ability to toe that line makes his voice so enigmatic time and time again. And yet, in some parts of “The Car,” style trumps storytelling and leaves some songs empty.

While many of their stadium band contemporaries feel comfortable releasing variations of the same album twice a decade, slowly creeping into heirloom status, Arctic Monkeys’ drive to explore new styles is commendable; expanding their repertoire will serve them better in the long run than bashing updated versions of “Teddy Picker” with each release, although some fans would prefer that. While “The Car” should allow them to play the next Bond theme, is it likely to achieve the stratospheric success of their first tracks? Probably not. But after all, the journey is more important than the destination anyway.