Arctic Monkeys album “The Car” an unexpected take on a familiar sound

Arctic Monkeys defined the 2014 Tumblr era, and as those trends come back so is the band with this new album

Arctic Monkeys album “AM” was a defining part of the 2014 indie sleaze Tumblr aesthetic we see resurging today. And just like many people’s recent adoption of low-rise jeans and use of heavy eyeliner, their new album seems to echo these roots with an updated take.

The album definitely sounds like Arctic Monkeys. Alex Turner’s distinct voice and inflections are unmistakable, but it’s not like any of their previous albums. The heavy use of jazz instrumentation and strings is an unexpected divergence from their typical heavy melodic style.

The songs have a different pacing. It does not have the same sort of frantic energy you see on their other albums. It is slower with many of the songs culminating in large swaths of strings instead of the electric breakdowns seen in songs like “R U Mine?”

The album builds over the course of the 10 songs. Starting with “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” the album leads you in with suspenseful orchestral music. Turner comes in gently, ending the suspense with the words “Don’t get emotional, that ain’t like you.” His soft tone matches the light melody. Turner’s cool greaser persona solidified during their 2013 explosion after the release of “AM” has not gone anywhere over the many years. He always seems to play it cool while those around him play with a contrasting intensity. Contrasting previous albums, much of his accompaniment feels scarce. Leaving his voice nearly naked, except the occasional cut in of the 70’s-esque instrumentation.

While the focus on orchestral interludes is an asset in the way it helps distinguish this album from anything they have made before, it does feel overdone in certain sections. Once you get to “Jet Skis On The Moat” and realize how pervasive a motif it is, it starts to feel slightly monotonous. Even the title track “The Car” does not seem to offer much to break the uniformity. It picks up once again when you reach “Big Ideas,” but to have the entire middle section blend into itself takes away from its memorability.

One of my favorite parts of the album is in the song “Hello You” when Turner says, “LEGO Napoleon movie, written in noble gas-filled glass tubes.” In an interview with Radio X, Turner claims “Well, there’s ‘LEGO Star Wars’ and ‘LEGO Batman’… I was imagining those guys taking the Napoleon script that Stanley Kubrick never made. I think it was maybe something like that — they gave it to the LEGO guys.” The nod to “The LEGO Movie” is definitely a little strange, but has a sense of irony. It was an iconic movie premiering in 2014, the same time Turner and the band’s fame peaked. It draws upon those same roots felt in the new album, and the same past album that seems to forever mark their legacy.

Yes, this album is not going to rival “AM” in the cultural zeitgeist. As far as my personal opinion of it, it does not come close to taking the spot of my favorite album “Favourite Worst Nightmare.” But, it is worth a listen. Do not go in expecting the iconic fast paced energy we’ve come to love from the band. It is far more reminiscent of songs like “Only Ones Who Know” over all. If you understand that, then I think this album is an enjoyable listen.

Post Author: Aurora Stewart