Interest | Art & Culture

A Somber, Orchestrated Affair: Review of Arctic Monkeys' The Car

Kamis, 27 Oct 2022 16:00 WIB
A Somber, Orchestrated Affair: Review of Arctic Monkeys' The Car
Jakarta -

The first entry into Arctic Monkeys' The Car is remarkably solitary. Its cover depicts the titular vehicle: a singular Toyota Corolla parked on a building rooftop. Surrounding it are taller buildings, all looking gray with no signs of people. It's an apt depiction of what the album sounds like, which is somewhat personal but veiled within an air of uncertainty.

To listen to Arctic Monkeys is to accept that the band goes through different sonic phases rather quickly. Certain sounds that define a phase in their career might only be found as mere traces in subsequent releases. Even as early as their third album, Humbug, the punk-influenced garage rock sound from their first two albums has shifted to something darker. Their next two albums introduced a more "pop" side to Arctic Monkeys, with AM being more of a synthesis of all their past sonic influences. In 2018's divisive Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, their guitar-heavy sound is replaced by richer instrumentation, with the piano being one of the keys. Its jazz-influenced orchestral sound is further refined in The Car.

Album opener "There'd Better be a Mirrorball" paints a picture of an achingly romantic, apt image of Arctic Monkeys and its singer Alex Turner Now. It sets a cinematic somber tone which characterizes the album's sonic palette. In "Sculptures of Anything Goes", the somber tone is continued with lines like "Is that vague sense of longin' kinda tryin' to cause a scene?/Guess I'm talkin' to you now". Immediately afterwards, the polarizing reception of their 2018 album is addressed directly: "Puncturing your bubble of relatability with your horrible new sound/Baby, those mixed messages ain't what they used to be when you said them out loud".

The infectious energy and large riffs of early days are almost completely traded in for slow and grand orchestral arrangements. One can easily picture the band performing in a dark and hazy lounge now as opposed to seedy pubs with dirty dancefloors or stadiums of yesteryears.

The strings of phrases in The Car's titles and lyrics are shrouded in mystery   its intimacy always obscured by another intruding train of thought. The mood, however, always went through. Between the failed romances and longing for another's presence, is the reminiscence of youth and how the band used to be. In "Big Ideas", Turner sings, "I had big ideas, the band were so excited/The kind you'd rather not share over the phone/But now, the orchestra's got us all surrounded/And I cannot for the life of me remember how they go". As much as they are in their element in this new creative direction, the past is always seen through rose-tinted glasses. "Hello You" even delivers the line "I could pass for seventeen if I just get a shave and catch some Z's".

Throughout The Car, the lush instrumentation gives the soundscape a textural quality. Most of the time, it's almost velvet-like. In its immersive, moody glamor, The Car manages to deliver the sense of being somewhere in between the comfort of one's place within the world and a desire to return to simpler times.

[Gambas:Audio CXO]

(alm/tim)

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