Returning from their four-year hiatus, the Arctic Monkeys are reminding everyone that their imprint on the music industry is abundant as it was 16 years ago. Since their historic debut, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’, was released in 2006, the Sheffield four-piece have gone on to hone their craft, remaining experimental and shifting gears for each record. That brings us to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, the bands most divisive record that caused a stir with fans criticising the new sound. The pivotal shift, while blurring the lines between the bands sound and frontman Alex Turner’s side projects under The Last Shadow Puppets pseudonym, leads to ‘The Car’ – a daring record that sounds nothing if not composed. Indicating that their seventh studio album picks up where ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ left off, the records set of subtle and stupendously well-mannered mid-century pop feels light years away from the youthful turbulence of what once was.
Bolstered by intuitive storytelling and crisp, confident string arrangements, the production shines through. Described as the focal track for the album’s direction, the sweeping violins on ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ compliments the smooth storytelling that is seen throughout the rest of the record. Opening with tales of unforgiving arguments that are “still leaking through the roof,” Turner vaults from a bed of enigmatic opening-credit-like keys and strings in ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ whereas, the funky ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ is complete with melodic stabs reminiscent of Nile Rogers.
Lyrically, ‘The Car’ showcases what has become Turner’s signature style: an eclectic sequence of witty, flamboyant one-liners, loaded with niche-pop culture references wrapped up in relaxing yet sultry melodies. Capturing the eeriness of Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things, ‘Sculptures Of Anything Goes’ is loaded with beautiful string sections overlaid with brooding synths. The electronic track, with its Radiohead-esque instrumentation and sharp lyrics, captures the essence of an ominous atmosphere while strengthening the bands new-found sound.
With dystopian sounds paying homage to the ‘70s (David Bowie and Annie Lennox), ‘Body Paint’ is one of the most direct tracks on the record. The blast of baroque pop, which has all the signature stylings of the bands best tracks, beautifully paints the picture of socially presenting the perfect life while hiding the truth through its lyrical content: “For a master of deception and subterfuge / You’ve made yourself quite the bed to lie in / Do your time travelling through the tanning booth / So you don’t let the sun catch you crying.”
It’s impossible not to feel immersed in such imagery as, within every track, Turner finds a way to visually portray what he’s detailing lyrically. Transporting everyone to visualise the final curtain call at the theatre, ‘Perfect Sense’ impeccably brings the album to a close. Serving as a reminder, carrying the humble message that even celebrities are normal people, the track highlights the very best of the bands new orchestral sound. With oscillating strings full of unwavering confidence, the concluding track feels like a true ending, a smooth one at that, and lyrically provides a perplexing view while bringing the enjoyable experience full circle.
Rife with signifiers of a stylish, seedy past, ‘The Car’ is, in every way, a sequel to 2018’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. It highlights that the Arctic Monkeys, similarly to David Bowie, never remain the same musically while proving they’re still capable of reinventing themselves in exciting and refreshing ways; alongside its immersive imagery and juxtaposing lyrics, it’s not a reach to say it could be described as an innovative proposal for a Quentin Tarantino movie. Solidifying their reputation of being known for constantly progressing forward, the Arctic Monkeys’ seventh full-length set out to “have a bit more fun with those types of ideas” and exhibits a sense of comfort and familiarity, showcasing that the band seem to be in a place they are most at home with.
Arctic Monkeys’ seventh album ‘The Car’ is out now.