The Car, released on October 21st, is the seventh studio album by the English band Arctic Monkeys, and it’s embarrassing.
Opening with a smooth Bond-like arrangement of subtle drums, simple keys and crescendoing strings of ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’, singer Alex Turner arrived with one of the most cringe-worthy David Bowie impressions in history. He tries to add ‘creative’ syncopation too. The lyrics make you actively want to not listen anymore: “old romantic fool…I’ll have a heavy heart…look them in the eyes and say ‘Baby, it’s been nice’”. The strings pick up with delicate sensitivity that does support the song and vocal line well by slowly creating an emotional tension; apart from the few beats of lift music at the end. This song leaves you checking how long the album is.
‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ (2000s indie bands can’t seem to distance themselves from the comically long song titles apparently) hits us with an opening wave of 70s synth and dives back into the Bowie impression. Although obviously inspired by Bowie’s work, the clinical, reproducible and not-exactly-creative output creates insincerity in the songs, far removed from the art-fused roots.
‘Jet Skis On The Moat’ leans into lounge music. St Vincent comparatively has honed this niche zone of artists with smooth jazz influences and outstanding vocal performances, Arctic Monkeys here are just unsettling and disappointing. The rest of the tracks follow the same pattern of pricey production but lack of skill from the band to live up to what they got themselves into. ‘Body Paint’ has some potential, with the first notable change up into staccato strings where Turner has a simpler melody, however his voice is just too meek and eventually the song loses itself in this quietness.
The blend of acoustic guitar and grand string sections on the title track is again done well and hints at Pink Floyd, but the band just isn’t impressive enough for this scale.
Throughout the whole album we are constantly reminded of the glam-rock they are aiming for. The high-brow production on the instrumental elements are clean and elegant but are fuelling nothing; there are no grand climaxes, grooves or hooks that deserve such attention. Furthermore, Turner’s vocal performance throughout is comically bad. We see inflection being forced, octave jumps not being met and unprofessional sounding vibrato.