The Arctic Monkeys of old are gone. And that is not a bad thing.
Far from the indie roots of the Sheffield band’s smash-hit debut in 2006 or their world dominating stadium anthem filled AM, The Car continues a sleek lounge rock evolution that began with its predecessor.
The latest release takes the sound from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, a concept album telling stories of residencies in space and restaurants on the moon, and brings it right down to earth.
Arctic Monkeys are now a band not of raucous coming-of-age headbangers but nostalgic, crooning musings on a world leading man Alex Turner is weary of.
A new sound is always bound to divide fans but one can’t argue that The Car confirms the band is firmly sculpted in Turner’s image. This LP is impossibly cool, effortlessly sexy and endlessly mysterious.
There is some room for the good ol’ days if you look hard enough though. Opening track ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ may take long-time fans back to Favourite Worst Nightmare’s ‘Do Me A Favour’.
A couple resigned to the inevitability of breaking up while walking to the car evokes that famous car from 2007 that “went up the hill and disappeared around the bend”.
Overall this latest effort employs Alex Turner’s boundless song writing talent to explore new ground. His life and longing orbit the record with a self-consciousness and dejection that is equally jarring and wonderful.
Look no further than ‘Big Ideas’. A self-aware Turner reflects on those big ideas he had for the band and its music, only to have forgotten them as “the orchestra’s got us all surrounded”.
An orchestral sound does indeed surround this record. Wailing violins and Turner’s dulcet tones almost make it too obvious that tracks like ‘Big Ideas’ could serve as an audition for authoring the next 007 theme song.
One can only hope Barbara Broccoli and co. at Eon Productions are listening because this version of Arctic Monkeys was born to score James Bond’s next outing.
Highlights include ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’, which brings the funk from the beginning with its winding guitar lines. This is a rarity for this iteration of the Monkeys who have all but abandoned the guitar because Turner “got bored” of writing on it.
Though the sound is undeniably appealing, this random sliver of guitar typifies what can be a messy album at times. All of a sudden we’re getting synth on ‘Sculptures Of Anything Goes’ before jumping back on the guitar for ‘Jet Skis On The Moat’.
‘Hello You’ is the jewel in The Car’s crown. The lyrical wit is unreal from the get-go: “Lego Napoleon movie, written in noble gas-filled glass tubes, underlined in sparks, I’ll admit it’s elaborate for a wakin’ thought”.
In typical Alex Turner fashion, he takes the meandering sound of the album on which he’s singing and makes it a central theme of what is its most impressive song.
This apologetic ballad wreathed in double meaning serves as Turner’s chance to address Arctic Monkey’s evolution, “hello you, still dragging out a long goodbye?”. The album’s confused sound bids a drawn out farewell to the band’s rock-fuelled youth.
The record is from start to finish beautifully arranged but just a bit more focus could have turned it from a good outing to a great one.
The Car comes so close to falling flat but just about picks itself up. A bit like its predecessor, it shouldn’t work but it does thanks to the band’s chameleon-like ability to change and Turner’s unique vision.