NPND Background
  • twitter
  • instagram
  • facebook
  • Dan Hayes

Arctic Monkeys cruise to another triumph with ‘The Car’


It’s been awfully incredibly busy this past week in the music industry, with Friday night being the busiest of all. Amongst the plethora of releases was the seventh full-length studio album from Sheffield natives, Arctic Monkeys. Those Yorkshire streets were the back drop, the setting, and often the subject on their debut LP Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Now, nearly two decades, five consecutive number one albums, and one highly questionable goatee later, the band are back with some of their most complete work to date.


Following the immense success of 2013’s AM, the band took a prolonged hiatus, returning five years later with an album that came completely out of left field. Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino saw the Monkeys venture into uncharted territory, lunar hotel management. Launching off with a calmer, more thoughtful lounge style, the sound change divided many fans. Despite this the album saw frontman and songwriter Alex Turner provide some of his most complex and profound lyrics. No longer concerned with the goings on of strangers in queues, Tranquility Base saw Turner turn his focus to a fictitious moon surface hotel, playing a range of characters, using their bizarre presence upon the moon as a lens to analyse the happenings of earth.


However, these sonic shifts aren’t new territory for the band. While all this time later we sit and recall our love for the early tracks of bashful youth and yearn to have the stamina to argue with a cab drivers, upon their arrival their sound was fresh. A new and yet to be heard take on the genre in a post-garage rock landscape. They became the mould for other new bands to go from. Even now, in every city across the country new bands form on the earnest hope of being the next Arctic Monkeys. Yet, before the sound became stale the band had began to shift, Humbug saw the group traverse the Atlantic and hone a darker, moody record in Joshua Tree. Before emerging from the West Coast of America two years later in an entirely new era. Leather clad and hair greased, the Arctic Monkeys would see their greatest success thus far. Yet the tonal shift remaining into their seventh album should’ve come as no surprise. Speaking prior to the records release, drummer Matt Helders had confirmed The Car would “pick up where the last one left off musically”. But this instinct to evolve has been there from the very beginning. Clearly seen through the years in a mantra and code the band laid out on the title track of their 2005 EP, Who The Fuck Are The Arctic Monkeys?:


“But we’ll stick to our guns,

Don’t care if its marketing suicide,

We won’t crack or compromise,

Your derisory divides,

Will never unhinge us.”


This time round Turner’s lyrics seem to delve into split opinions and negative feedback. Like on the first album track of the LP, Sculptures Of Anything Goes. Set to back drop of a dark and moody drum machine run through a Moog synthesiser. The warm and matured vocals of their iconic frontman ponders the band’s previous sonic changes and the effects it may have had on their position in the eyes of fans, whether they’ve punctured their “bubble of relatability” with their “horrible new sound”. Yet, there’s a wonderful irony to these lines as they sit atop a sound that sees the Arctic Monkeys present that dirty grit of Humbug with the bass-driven air of AM through a new modern approach, while sticking with the instinct they’ve had from the very start to change, combining the mystique and sauntering beauty of lounge pop with rich contemporary textures. Elsewhere in the track Turner’s lyrics similarly look forward while eyeing what’s been before. “Performing in Spanish on Italian TV some time in the future, whilst wondering if your mother ever still thinks of me” he croons with the trademark of the new Monkeys sound.


It is essential to take these spells of introspection with a pinch of salt. For all their seemed honesty, these are words penned by Alex Turner after all. A man who’s shifted from writing with a keen eye to the ongoings of his surrounds, presented in a matter of fact manner. Now, hidden by smoke and mirrors, each idea is presented momentarily before being yanked behind a screen of luxurious tales, Jet Skis On The Moat, for example.


Once again reaching for that brand new Wah pedal, Jets Skis is the perfect point of development, brought together by a haunting Hammond B3 beneath the lamentations of monogamous stagnation, asking if they’re; ‘happy to sit there and watch as the paint job dries?’.


Big Ideas presents the group at their closest to the TBHC soundscape, while once again delving into the pressures of evolving and redirecting yourself. “I had big ideas the band were so excited” he sings before confessing that while surrounded by the orchestra the pressure creeps in, and he’s forgotten how they go. But as is the consistent theme throughout the whole album, is this really about the band? Or the fictional world that Turner has created for these characters and the lines they’re given the chance to deliver.


Hello You summarises the whole album into one track. A joyous dance with the summer air of 2011 Suck It and See arm in arm with its string arrangement partner. Gliding its way through a crowd with tales of ‘the business they called show’ and living the high life. Yet through out there’s the aforementioned hints of genuine insight into psyche of Turner and the band. “I’ve snorkelled the beach fruitlessly” suggests their exploration of the ‘dream’ life of a Rockstar only to come up short of any substance. Before a consideration of time passed, returning to the ‘Rawborough Snooker Club’ to ‘pass as seventeen’ if he ‘just gets a shave and catch some Z’s’.


Jam packed with references before musical and lyrical from The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Al Green, Snuggie Otis, Gerry and the Pacemakers and many more, Arctic Monkeys are right to have to stuck to their guns. The Car is an album from a band from a long gone pre-internet era refusing to become a stale pastiche of who they once were. Lush strings confound moments of genuine beauty that have been present on any Monkeys album to date with penultimate track Mr Schwartz.


‘When my invincible streak turns onto the final straight, if that’s what it takes to say goodnight, then that’s what it takes” sings Turner to close out the album on the tenth track Perfect Sense. When asked in interviews Alex and Matt have made sure to downplay any fears of this being it for the band. If it were to be the end, this is one hell of a way to do it. Acknowledge the change, disagree, and make the record you want.


Evolution is an essential part of music. When Arctic Monkeys inevitably return, whatever you’re expecting, expect it not to be that.


Arctic Monkeys latest album ‘The Car’ is currently available to stream on all major platforms. Catch them on their headline tour in May and June 2023 at the dates below!


May

29 - Ashton Gate Stadium, Bristol

31 - Building Society Arena, Coventry


June

2 - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester

3 - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester

5 - Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough

7 - Carrow Road Stadium, Norwich

9 - Hillsborough Park, Sheffield

10 - Hillsborough Park, Sheffield

12 - Swansea.com Stadium, Swansea

14 - The Ageas Bowl, Southampton

16 - Emirates Stadium, London

17 - Emirates Stadium, London

18 - Emirates Stadium, London

20 - Malahide Castle, Dublin

25 - Bellahouston Park, Glasgow