Posted on: November 1, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

Arctic Monkeys’ new release feels like driving with porcelain airbags.

Aptly titled “The Car,” it has all the padding and drive you could dream of—climactic build-ups, front-man Alex Turner’s dreamy and centrifuged vocals, beautiful licks of guitar—yet feels delicate enough to shatter at any moment. The album carries a simple complexity that doesn’t make sense. The vocals are airy and light, floating on a breeze uncharacteristic of this band, but the lyrics feel heavy and dense. It’s a brand new take on their original sound that just works.

Nick Stulga

Editor-in-Chief

★★★★★

Lead single “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball” is a proper introduction to this theme. The song is about a break-up that possibly took place at a party. “You’re getting cynical and that won’t do / I’d throw the rose tint back on the exploded view,” Turner sings over an instrumental that could play at a high-end Italian restaurant. Arctic Monkeys have always had a knack for relationship ballads, usually expressing the kinky and absurd. This time they chose to hone in on an urbane elegance and sophistication in Turner’s female protagonists. 

The song talks about Turner wanting a mirror ball, which most likely means a last dance. The song is extremely emotive, with lyrics like “So if you wanna walk me to the car / You oughta know I’ll have a heavy heart.” Turner is flustered and wants this romance to end smoothly. This approach contrasts with earlier songs like “Fluorescent Adolescent,” which paints a picture of a rocky relationship in a more crude way. Note that Turner refers to himself throughout the track, showing a continued introspective mood carried over from the band’s previous release “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.”

Hidden throughout the introspection is a delicate simplicity that shows time and again. On “Body Paint,” Turner croons about a lover who is cheating on him: “For a master of deception and subterfuge / You’ve made yourself quite the bed to lie in,” implying she seems to be perfectly happy lying to Turner about their relationship. You can picture the body paint staining her arms and legs, the fingerprints and gentle, splotchy marks now drying on from the previous affair of the day. 

The retro vibe of the music video for “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball” carries nostalgia into the song’s introspective frame.

Turner’s hyper-awareness is stronger than ever, drawing you into the tracks with him and allowing you to carefully step around the scenes so they don’t shatter. Sometimes this simplicity feels so surreal it’s dreamlike.

In the best cut off the album, “Perfect Sense,” Turner talks about having to conform to perfection in order to succeed: “A four-figure sum on a hotel notepad / A revelation or your money back.” He’s taking a look back on the band’s career and how hard it is to please the industry.

They’ve gone from punk rock to alt rock to pop and now to lounge in an impressive run but still face disapproval from industry giants of all stripes, like Anthony Fantano, a music critic who gave the album a measly 3/10.

Regardless, it’s tracks filled with intense imagery that pull the album together in full. Take “Big Ideas,” a song that could be about Turner’s musical journey. You can picture a theater with a mandolin passage being played as Turner’s past self is lowered in.

The audience is impressed, but Turner from the present is watching in disbelief. “Over and out / Really, it’s been a thrill,” Turner sings of his past. But he’s in the present and he has grown as a person. As a result, the band has made beautiful introspection out of slow drums, supple violins and melting piano chords that vibrate the ears with delight. Turner has grown as a person, and the material in the album grows on you as a result.

This may not be the Arctic Monkeys most fans are familiar with, but it’s my favorite iteration of them. They bear it all through ballads of love, loss, yearning and adventure. By the end of the album, you are clutching your seatbelt, holding on for the ride, and hoping the porcelain airbags don’t accidentally go off.

Relax. You don’t have to hold on any longer, because this album is far from an accident. And if you do crash, the padding should be more than enough to stop your face from smashing through the windshield.