Arctic Monkeys gain on The Beatles’ legacy
The Arctic Monkeys-Beatles parallel is one that grows in validity with every year the boys from Sheffield stay at the top. Like the Fab Four, Arctic Monkeys are a British outfit that is responsible for spearheading popular guitar music for a generation – while managing to evolve at a moment’s notice.
More interesting to consider, though, is which band’s legacy will come out on top, in years to come. What Arctics will undoubtedly have on The Beatles, is closure. On The Car, Arctic Monkeys sound like a band that is in control – and satisfyingly self-conscious – of its career trajectory. This isn’t something The Beatles ever managed to achieve. For many, the combined career of John, Paul, George, and Ringo ended long before we’d had enough. Indeed, the implosion happened within just a seven-year studio-album span.
The stable force that is Arctic Monkeys, on the other hand, feels as though there’s truckloads of juice left in the tank. Through tact, taste, and delicate application, Alex Turner has engineered the rare opportunity to artistically reflect on his career, plan an exit strategy, and tie it neatly with a bow.
And for much of the album, it feels as though Turner is doing just that. He’s mellowing, reflecting – and evaluating his career passed: “Yesterday's still leaking through the roof, that's nothing new. I know I promised this is what I wouldn't do – somehow giving it the old romantic fool, seems to better suit the mood.”
Those looking for music about drinking and nightclubs will be disappointed. Such themes don’t relate to the band anymore. They are writing about what they know. Sometimes it’s abstract, sometimes it’s poetic, and sometimes it’s about the eccentricities of celebrity life. But at least it’s authentic.
Drummer Matt Helders dubbed The Car: Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, but back down to earth. I think this is modest. There are glimmers of a fresh sound for the band, here. Thanks to the employment of bongos, Wah pedals, organs, and funky basslines, listeners are treated to 70s soul, funk and Motown influences. Just listen to the second track, I Ain't Quite Where I Think I Am, and you’ll hear a new era.
What emerges, then, is a cinematic and luxuriously seductive sound – with Turner’s voice sounding better than ever. Some cuts – like Sculptures of Anything Goes – get as avant-garde as Bowie’s Blackstar. Others – particularly the title track – are satisfyingly left-field for the band, and reminiscent of Spaghetti Western arrangements.
Thanks to the organ, Big Ideas has an aftertaste of Steely Dan, believe it or not. And, with Lennon singing, Mr. Schwartz, wouldn’t have been out of place beside Girl, on The Beatles' Rubber Soul. This delicate curiosity of an album closes with a track called Perfect Sense. And – like many album closers before it within the band’s discography – rounds off the 10-track LP on an emotional, pensive note.
We leave The Car wondering how, and when, Arctic Monkeys will choose to drop the curtain on their captivating and inspiring time in the limelight.