ALBUM REVIEW: Arctic Monkeys – The Car

7/10

Arctic Monkeys – The Car

It is difficult to believe that the album that shot Arctic Monkeys into the limelight, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was released sixteen years ago. At the time of its release, frontman Alex Turner had only just turned twenty, so it is perfectly understandable that he and his bandmates, Jamie Cook, Nick O'Malley and Matt Helders, have maturing viewpoints and musical influences away from their early sound that had helped a resurgence of British indie music in the mid-2000s.

The band's previous album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, saw a stylistic deviation from the guitar-heavy work that had helped the Sheffield act cement their name in rock. Although Turner had intended to return to a more guitar-centred sound, The Car continues the theme of transition, with a variety of genres covered, primarily lounge music, with influences from orchestral rock, soul, funk and jazz being predominantly heard too.

The Car opens with 'There'd Better Be A Mirrorball', which sets the tone for the lounge-heavy album. Stabbing piano chords are teamed with reminiscent lyrics sung in a higher register than most would associate with Turner's previous vocals. Before, 'I Ain't Quite Where I Think I Am' sees an increased tempo from the opening number, with funk guitar licks mixed with a driving bass line.

One of the album's darker offerings comes in the form of 'Sculptures of Anything Goes'. The moody tone is built through heavier sounds led by powerful drum beats. Abstract lyrics such as, "Performing in Spanish on Italian TV, sometime in the future, whilst wondering if your mother still ever thinks of me" add to the cinematic feel.

Conceptual lyrical themes continue on 'Jet Skis On The Moat'; imaginative lines such as, "Jet skis on the moat, they shot it all in Cinemascope" are offset against a background of effect-heavy guitar mixed with delicate piano.

The string-laden 'Body Paint' gives off a Bowie-esque vibe, complete with poetic lines such as, "Do your time travelling through the tanning booth, so you don't let the sun catch you crying." It also features one of the few guitar solos on the record. The title track 'The Car' provides another cinematic composition, with finger-picked acoustic guitar, strings, piano, and subtle bass notes that underlie Turner's reassuring vocals before the surprising addition of another guitar solo.

Arguably the best vocal performance on the record comes from the chorus of 'Big Ideas', another well-composed orchestral number, in which Turner shows off the full range of his voice. The pinnacle of the record is provided by 'Hello You', the liveliest track on the record, a coming together of the innovative sound and lyrics that excel throughout The Car.

The album's closing stages see finger-picked acoustic guitar return to the fore on 'Mr Schwartz', again backed by moving piano notes before the bassline and percussion eases in, almost announced by the line, "gradually it's coming into view". When Turner began writing new music for The Car, one of his main goals was to write "a song that could close the show". Through the final song on the album, 'Perfect Sense', he has done just that. The driving, yet calming, string arrangement winds the record down before providing the most fitting lines to close an album or a show, "If that's what it takes to say goodnight, then that's what it takes".

The Car represents a triumph of innovation and reinvention. The songs are musically diverse, well-composed numbers, scoping a variety of genres, boosted by triumphant vocal performances of intelligent lyrics. However, despite this, there is a lack of punch. During the record's mid-section, the lounge feel takes a bit too much precedence without offering much bite. Overall, though, The Car represents the success of a band willing to innovate and reinvent itself for a new era. A new era that should be warmly welcomed.

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