To avoid falling down the rabbit hole, it’s best not to assume what kind of sound Arctic Monkeys is going to put out next. The band is known for its unpredictability and it comes as no surprise that they continue to stay relevant through reinvention. Every album that has been released so far has felt like a step in unknown territory and ‘The Car’ is no different.
Most bands will go on to produce that one career-defining record, and its not to say that the other records don’t compare but there’s always one that shoots to success and stands alone in all retrospects. With the Beatles, it was Abbey Road. Oasis, it was What’s the Story. The Eagles, it was Hotel California and for Arctic Monkeys, it was AM.
When reminiscing about the ‘AM’ era, you can’t dismiss the infamous acceptance speech at the 2014’ Brit Awards. Turner took to the stage with his Danny Zuco slick-back and his all-black tailored suit and showed the world exactly why they consider him to be one of the greatest frontman’s of our generation. The mic-drop moment at the Brits was a perfect projection of who Arctic Monkeys were during their ‘AM’ era. This album was a masterpiece, every inch of the record presented itself as near to perfect in terms of artistry. It defined what a well-rounded rock album should sound like, and with every rock album you need a frontman to carry it home, so here we had Alex Turner living in his Johnny Cash era. It was all very iconic. This was the album where I truly felt like I knew who Arctic Monkeys were and two albums later, I realised I was wrong.
Their latest album ‘The Car’ is yet again unlocking a new layer in the bands discovery. This isn’t like anything we’ve heard before from the Monkeys and yet somehow it still feels familiar. Despite the 360 in sound, the production’s playmaker James Ford returns on this album as he has with all the other albums since Favourite Worst Nightmare. This could explain the few familiar traits. Everything else on the record was least expected and if I had to define it in simpler terms, I’d say it’s slightly random but then again, if you listen to a lot of Isaac Hayes then it all seems to make sense.
From the basic assets delivered it was hard to get a grasp to where they were going with this one. There was no hidden meaning here or metaphoric message behind the mysterious cover art or album title. The photo itself was taken on a Leica M6 film camera by their very own Matt Helder. A still shot captured from the drummers apartment window with no intention for it to be used as the album cover. As for the name, I had to laugh when Turner said in an interview that it was an obvious title based on the car in the photo. Here I was expecting some upside down meaning behind it all like I forgot who we were talking about here. Lesson one: leave all expectations at the door when it comes to these Sheffield boys.
The record plays slower than usual and even though it’s not the Sabbath rock some were hoping for, it’s still worth talking about. There’s a stunning fresh collab of guitar riffs lead by a live orchestra ensemble. The record can almost be described as cinematic and theatrical, with Alex Turner singing in baritone. Dare I say it, but it all feels very Bowie. The melodic vibes and the theatrics along with the 70s aesthetic visuals displays an album that feels like you’re stepping into a time machine. Turner seems to be delving into his glam-rock era and though it’s different, I’m kind of here for it. One thing that hasn’t changed is the lyricism, like always Arctic Monkeys don’t disappoint when it comes to song-writing. The arrangement on ‘Body Paint’ is a stand out moment for the band and will most likely be added to Turners catalogue of greatest songs he’s ever written/performed. Turner creates an alternative persona of himself throughout the entire album and he plays it out perfectly on “Mr Schwartz” as he switches between tempos and goes into his tunnel of story-telling. The entire album feels like a box-office hit, as if I should be sitting in the cinema, popcorn in hand and listening to it on the big screen. This is all thanks to the bands arrangement along with Turners execution of vocal range and protagonist performance – like que up the Bond soundtrack. I’ll be half disappointed if the band doesn’t perform with a live orchestra at least once.
This album may not be for the majority but you can’t deny that it is a refreshing and intimate take on what’s to come next. One thing I’ve learned along the years as an Arctic Monkeys fan is if you aren’t ready to take this leap of faith with them then you’ll be left in the rain waiting for the ‘AM” part II. Regardless of whether this album is accepted as greatness or not, Arctic Monkeys will never not be considered as the most influential band of our generation, if not of all time.