No, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” (2018) was not a unique. Any hopes of an “AM”-like Arctic Monkeys in the early 2000s must be completely dissolved at this point: there’s no turning back. Say goodbye to their punk-infused indie rock and embrace something new – ultra-hip-jazz-fusion-lounge rock that throws a new curveball at their listeners.
“The Car,” released via Domino Recording Company on October 21, doubles down on its increasingly eccentric and daring new sound. Right off the bat, it garnered praise for its lavish, tasteful production and picturesque imagery. Producer James Ford, a frequent musical collaborator with the Arctic Monkeys, also brought many of the band’s ideas to life in the studio. The addition of strings, along with the apparent influence of bossa nova, funk, and even vintage movie soundtracks, resonated with most, but not all, music critics.
Arctic Monkeys, the global superstar rock band from Sheffield, have maintained a level of relevance and success that almost none of their peers have achieved. With six dizzying No. 1 studio albums in the UK, a approved four times platinum album, “AM” (2013) and places it as 50th most listened to to the artist on Spotify, the band proved that rock ‘n’ roll is a commercially viable genre in the 21st century.
Although they were lumped together in the garage-rock revival of the early 2000s, Arctic Monkeys were certainly no strangers to experimentation. If their international breakthrough “AM” was their introduction to those outside of England, then their follow-up record “Tranquility Hotel Base & Casino” (2018) was a reminder that they don’t conform to anyone and play by their own rules.
“The Car” continues to build on the subtle complexities of its predecessor. ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’, ‘Body Paint’ and ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ were released ahead of the full album’s debut and gave fans a taste of how gorgeous the singer was. Alex Turner would speak. on their next album.
Monkeys’ latest album is refreshingly sumptuous and, at times, obtuse obtuse. The record is marked by delicate string arrangements, tasteful bongos and light percussion, groovy electric clavinets and an overall nostalgic flair that harkens back to the early 70s. vivid pictures.
It proved sonically more inviting than its predecessor, but lyrically it is much more opaque and reserved. Lead singer Turner oscillated between reflecting on his maturity on “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” and fluff rolling his “velvet suits” on the penultimate track. Drums, guitar and bass are props to Turner’s larger narrative, especially given his only songwriting credits on each song.
It would be misleading to say that all the lyrics are pure gibberish. Turner sings about wanting to woo her mother on “Sculptures of Anything Goes” and talks about travel-sized champagne corks on the title track. He may even be hinting at his growing dominance over the band, when he sings in classic falsetto, “I had big ideas, the band was so excited,” on the aptly titled “Big Ideas.” He even recounts in a comical way how he could pass for being seventeen, if he had just shaved and slept a little more on “Hello You”. More often than not, the content of Turner’s lyrics is still up for debate.
For example, on the “Body Paint” sweep, he has a back and forth with someone close to him – maybe a lover, an ex, or a music director. The content of this disagreement is non-linear and difficult to follow. He disdainfully tells them, “So predictable, I know what you’re thinking.” What is the disagreement and between whom is not the question. He often invites listeners into what borders on inside joke territory, though we don’t know the punchline. But that might just be part of the charm.
Skeptics might point out the myriad of abstract lyrics on the LP and dismiss it as sheer laziness. But the four English natives aren’t the same young boys of 2005, and they’ll certainly never return to the lyrical directness of their international breakthrough ‘AM’. As the group ventures into their second decade together, it’s no wonder they’ve gained an increasingly meditative and, at times, mysterious public presence. After all, a band approaching 40 has already reached the pinnacle of arena rock, the ups and downs of fame and the trials and tribulations of changing its sound and its public image. Let the monkeys take you on the ride because while they don’t know exactly where they’re taking you, the ride is sure to be full of memorable stops along the way.