Arctic Monkeys’ new song ‘Body Paint’ is an ambitious, swaggering rock ballad

Another taster of upcoming seventh album 'The Car' doubles down on drama and bombast

“For a master of deception and subterfuge / You’ve made yourself quite the bed, to lie in” Alex Turner accuses in the opening lines of ‘Body Paint’. The song commences at a measured pace, bringing in bright bell-like piano playing as Matt Helders drums evenly and meditatively in the background.

Their most recent album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, cemented Arctic Monkeys as masters of ballads of the more sultry kind. With tracks like ‘The Ultracheese’, ‘One Point Perspective’ and ‘Star Treatment’, the Sheffield band cornered the market on songs that could play in the background of a futuristic lounge bar whilst you’re contemplating a romantic tryst that had gone terribly wrong. ‘Body Paint’ continues that tradition, with cheeky lyrics on doing time in the “tanning booth” so the sun “won’t catch you crying” and keeping on costumes as a writing tool in tow. This time, the ballads come with more of a swagger.

The band premiered the track, which features on their upcoming album ‘The Car‘, during an intimate set at New York City’s Kings Theater last week. The crowd was quiet during its debut, swaying and glancing wide-eyed at Turner, Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley who played the slow-burning track under a comically large mirrorball. ‘Body Paint’ was a staggering highlight of the show, a promise of what fans can expect from the band’s new era.

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“So predictable, I know what you’re thinking”, Turner confesses in the only line of the chorus. The pause following the phrase pushes the complaint home, right before gorgeous string arrangements pour in and Turner outlines a number of ailments caused by his current relationship predicament: “My teeth are beating and my knees are weak / As if there’s something wrong with the wiring.”

‘Body Paint’ also sees Turner showing off his propensity for an imaginative retelling of the mundane, his falsetto vocal delivery that make stories of body paint leftover from a cover shoot (“on your legs, and on your arm and on your face”) feel like a sentence from a well-read poem. As Helders has previously said, ‘The Car’ thus far, seems to “kinda pick up where [‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’] left off musically.” For fans of songs, like these, that make you feel like you’re dancing under the revolving light of mirrorball, that foreshadowing bodes well. However, there’s still a driving urgency in the distorted guitars building at the bridge of the track and a propelling passion as Turner hits higher and higher notes.

‘Body Paint’ may conjure up all the stirring emotions from ‘TBH&C’ but the riveting track is proof that the band have no issue creating something otherworldly, even when the subject matter is far closer to earth.

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