Image Credit: flickr/vladimir
Ollie Grenier, Spark secretary, gives a review of the Arctic Monkeys’ newly released album.
I think everyone was expecting something different to previous Arctic Monkeys’ LPs, but surely nobody other than the band members themselves could have been expecting this. Actually, the band themselves were probably surprised when Alex Turner brought some of his songs into the studio. The album name alone raises a million questions, let alone song titles such as ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’ and ‘The Ultracheese’.
Alex Turner transports us to his lunar jazz piano-lounge, with deeply descriptive narratives of the place and the people there; referring to himself as a washed-up rock star playing for old retirees, and people he could not care less about. Turner weaves a deeply poetic tapestry of lyrics littered with pop culture references, discussing issues of politics and social media without getting too preachy for the listener. Its safe to say his boyish accent of old is now long gone, replaced by exaggerated pronunciation and chewy vowels. But the Sheffield accent returns occasionally for dramatic effect. The trademark powerhouse riffs we’ve become accustomed to take a backseat on this album, in favour of more slow burning melodies led by Turner’s newfound interest and ability on the piano. It is a refreshing change of sound but his limited ability on the keys becomes more obvious the longer you listen. A fuzzy guitar lick here and there sometimes fills in the gaps.
This is a brave venture into a new territory for Arctic Monkeys, detouring from their usual indie rock for a new jazz led sound, reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ legendary ‘Pet Sounds’, with influences from the likes of Leonard Cohen in their new lyric led songs; replacing the typical verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula. The boys from Sheffield have taken a step that many bands would be too scared to even consider, and that’s a sign of their caliber. The best always think of ways to reinvent themselves, David Bowie being the prime example, and even he made some mistakes.
If you want stadium-filling anthems, then there are 5 previous 5 LPs for that, albums that have all made the band rightfully one of the greatest of our time. But we must embrace one of Britain’s best songwriters for attempting something new. Too many bands try to keep pleasing crowds and fall slowly into irrelevance; perhaps Arctic Monkeys’ inherent desire to keep trying to push their boundaries is why, after 12 years, they are still so relevant.
Those longing for a return to the days when Turner cut through the bullshit of everyday life with his razor sharp tongue and thick Sheffield accent will be left disappointed. But that’s a narrow-minded view of the band, because they are all thirty-plus years old now, living in LA and hanging with the rich and famous. They simply don’t live in the world they did when they released their first album.
This album isn’t perfect, admittedly a few songs strike as fillers after a few listens, but it is inherently a concept album, and is designed to be listened to as such. When done so, this album is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. TBH&C clearly hasn’t been made to be a commercial success, but Turner has perhaps remembered what the LP is all about, and I can only respect him for that.
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