By Edward Burnett
After another lengthy hiatus, the world’s favourite polar primates have returned from musical hibernation to release a new album. This latest offering, simply entitled ‘The Car’, consists of ten new tracks and is the seventh studio album from the Sheffield outfit.
It is no secret that Alex Turner & Co are my personal favourite band and, with being a Yorkshire lad myself, the prospect of new music got me reet excited. I was not disappointed. Whereas many had hoped for a return to the rocky heights of ‘AM’, I rather hoped for an advancing on their previous album, ‘Tranquility Hotel Base & Casino’. Again, I was not disappointed. In what can only be described as a groovier and loungier sequel to their last offering, Arctic Monekys’ latest chapter adds something important to the THBC era that was somewhat missing: emotion.
There is a haunting sadness that drifts through this new album, with its presence being all the more noticeable thanks to Turner’s powerful vocals, which manage to convey every feeling, even when the lyrics do not. Nowadays most bands or artists would use topics of love and lost love and as subjects for the sadness in their songs but not the Monkeys, they do it differently and in style. Turner sings about music itself often and gives the off a notion of a singer who has given everything but is shutting up shop, and with this, the sadness cuts deep. It is common knowledge that many fans and listeners were upset with the shift from the popular rock tunes of old to the groovy tunes of TBHC and that is evident in this latest album.
Turner & Co pride themselves on creating something unique and this challenge to outdo oneself clearly shows on the magnificent ‘Big Ideas’. A song that, with an orchestral sounding backing, instantly gives the feeling of a closing spectacle. Turner talks through all of his plans for making the perfect music, only for him to reveal that he has forgotten how they go. For something so trivial, the band manage to make the listener feel genuinely sorry for the singer who has tried so hard to provide for the fans, and achieves in its aim to provoke an emotional response from the audience. Lyrics such as “We had 'em out of their seats, Waving their arms and stomping the feet“, ring so familiar as Turner reflects on the past, and there is a truth here as the band have had so many gigs, shows and festivals with adoring crowds singing back every word. “Really, it’s been a thrill,” sings Turner, giving off the notion of a final bow and a denouement for the Sheffield quartet.
Yet there is a return to a heavy, darker and dare I say it, rocky, theme with the album’s third song, ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’. The best way to describe this unique track is moody. It toys with the listener, building up its part with a foreboding introduction, only to be guided down this ghost train of vocals by Turner’s cutting lyrics. Whether it’s something as elegant as “Puncturing your bubble of relatability with your horrible new sound,” or a simple ‘your mother’ joke, Sheffield’s finest do not disappoint. Turner is so clearly digging at those who doubted the band’s creative choices of late and pokes fun at the notion of staying in one lane when it comes to the available styles and genres. As the lyrics rightly, and vaguely, suggest, music should not have to constantly be relatable for its effect and talent to be truly heard. Of all the songs on the album, this is definitely a hark back to the festival anthems and show openers which still have the ability to send goosebumps down a crowd’s collective spine, such as ‘Do I Wanna Know’.
This along with the final section of ‘Body Paint’, helps to show that some heavier music still exists on a Monkeys album, showing Turner was right in 2014 when he proclaimed at the Brits that rock n’ roll was going nowhere. Yet the majority of the rest album is both upbeat and melancholic, with string sounds and piano, which all give the idea of grandeur and showmanship. Most songs in the collection could be perfect goodbye themes or simply played at the end of a film to end a journey. Very fitting one would have to say for a band who have truly done it all when itches to musical experimentation over the years.
Songs like ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ and ‘Mr Schwartz’ almost give a Beatles vibe off, with that scent of whimsical mystery being bottled up perfectly in this collection of tunes. This feels like a performative, classy and grown-up addition to the Monkeys’ catalogue of records and could not be more fitting as a follow up to ‘Tranquility Hotel Base & Casino’.
So is this new album a flop? Does it not reach the pearly heights of their previous records? The answer was in a word is no. The band are older now, living far away from the Sheffield motherland, and that reflects in their music. They’re mature artists who are testing their creativity to the full, hopping over labels and genres like a kangaroo on speed.
If you are still waiting on them to return to the rock genre then you will be waiting longer than those hoping for an Oasis reunion, but appreciation has to be shown to this latest mesmeric concoction of songs. Each ballad has its own vibe and soul, giving a feel of real quality that’s been signed, sealed and delivered from four Yorkshire lads who continue to amaze and excel despite their critics. ‘The Car’ definitely deserves more than a four stars out of five rating and of course, that’s unheard of.
To have such a one point perspective and denounce Arctic Monkeys for their ever changing and developing style would be unfair and I’m afraid that’s where you’re wrong. Whether it be taquerias on the moon or Jet Skis on a moat, that certain romance remains eternal with the band’s ever enchanting music.