It’s become known in hype-pumping circles as the Elden Ring Method. You say nothing about a major project – a collaboration between the people behind the beat-your-ass-blue Dark Souls video game series and Game Of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin, say – for years on end, until desperate fans start thinking the whole thing’s been cancelled. Eventually they’ll start hunting out the tiniest easter egg hint that something might be happening, like the entire internet is one big Marvel trailer.
Blurry screenshots of menu screens in the background of obscure developer webinars; leaked internal sketches of boss designs; Hidetaka Miyazaki TikToked in a public toilet, emitting flatulence widely deciphered as a morse coded release date. By the time you’re ready to actually unveil anything, the public has worked itself into a froth of anticipation akin to that around Prince Andrew’s extradition and the damn thing sells itself.
Arctic Monkeys are clearly masters of the Elden arts. Drummer Matt Helders quietly announced that plans for a seventh album were underway back in January then – for 11 months – silence. The only ‘announcement’ as such came from the Insta of a Suffolk farmhouse called Butley Priory in August, in which the proprietors – who presumably never got the NDA through – declared: “We’ve had a band staying for the last month recording an album. Musicians love the acoustics in the Great Hall and Drawing room, with their high vaulted ceilings. Being serenaded while watering and weeding the garden, listening to the double bass, drums and piano wafting out of the open double doors was pretty nice. Thank you Arctic Monkeys.”
Arctic Monkeys in “pretty nice” new album shock! All hail the birth of Horticulturock! The band themselves, though, said nothing for three more months, until Helders told 5 Live’s Rick Edwards earlier this month that the new record “makes sense when you think about it in the context of the last record…it’s kind of hard to describe. You can tell it’s the same band.” Monkeys back to their ‘sense-making’ best! “Indescribable” album “definitely by Arctic Monkeys” reveals drummer!
Yet, like Cloverfield films and footballers on The Masked Singer, the less we know about ‘AM7’ (yes, it’s got a fan-sleuth nickname), the more the excitement around it grows. Perhaps because there’s a deeply reassuring frisson about being made to wait for something in an age when our every cultural whim is serviced at a word by a helpful home AI-slash-advertising surveillance bot. There’s intrigue in underexposure, a tangible added-value to a major piece of art that isn’t trying to throw itself out of our timelines at us like all those Instagram ads for hair transplants and butt plugs (everyone gets those, right?).
In an era when mainstream acts are expected to maintain constant engagement with their fanbases to appease the streaming overlords, trying to stir up an air of mystery around a new release often looks a bit try-hard and contrived. Witness those acts that surreptitiously have their ‘secret’ new logo spray painted onto a Great Pyramid just as the social media manager from their major label press department happens to be passing. The compulsion to be seen as secretive and protective of high-profile new albums can even have casualties.
When Australian TV presenter Matt Doran “insulted” Adele by admitting he hadn’t heard her new album ‘30’ before interviewing her, it wasn’t the poorest research job since Alan Partridge, when asked by an interviewer if he’d read their book, replied: “No – I never read the books!” Instead, he fell foul of the standard practice of major labels emailing A-list music streams to journalists under code-names. He just didn’t click on what his inbox likely told him was an album called ‘Cry Me A Cash River’ by Sheeran’s Worst Nightmare.
With Arctic Monkeys, however, there’s a genuinely sanguine attitude to their encroaching seventh record, smacking of self-assurance and confidence in their music. No marketing ploys or subliminal hard-sells here. Just a band becoming increasingly comfortable with their elevated standing, happy for the music to speak for itself and disinterested in playing the industry’s games. It’s an old-school approach but, when new-school practices make every act seem pushy and desperate, it’s refreshing to feel invited into an album rather than bombarded by it. There’s no chance, for example, of waking up one morning to find the new Monkeys record has been welded forever into your iPhone in the night, a la U2.
There’s a far greater sense of discovery and connection to music you have to seek out a little, join a few dots and piece together some clues. A certain romance to being seduced by the coy soft sell. The second we get through Elden Ring on the ultra-hard New Game Plus mode, Arctic Monkeys, we’re all yours.