There’s not a single nudge or wink across four minutes and 25 seconds. Arctic Monkeys have been almost everything by now, from indie dancefloor tykes to swaggering classic rockers and, erm, even sci-fi cosplayers with a penchant for Stanley Kubrick. But what Alex Turner and the gang have rarely been is as earnest as we find them on new song ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ – the gorgeous, unabashedly romantic taste of their upcoming seventh album ‘The Car’. Hold us!
It opens with stabs of piano, woozy keys and plodding synths, a far cry from the squalls of guitar that defined their Sheffield indie era in the mid-‘00s. But the Monkeys hang loose in LA now and they’re smooth as fuck, as was proved by their suited-and-booted appearance at last weekend’s Reading & Leeds Festival (where the long-standing contrarians played a totally different new track, the Bowie-esque ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’).
“Don’t get emotional,” Turner purrs on this one, as a lush Wurlitzer-style refrain swirls around him, “that ain’t like you,” admonishing – who? A lover? Himself? The latter seems likely, given what comes next: “I know this is what I promised I wouldn’t do / Giving it the old romantic fool.” And so our old romantic fool, apparently unlucky in love tonight, finds himself led out to – oh yes – “the car”, his hopes of a smooch sadly dashed. Ever the optimist, though, he’s not given up hope that there’s a “mirrorball” in the motor.
There’s a touch of the Scott Walker pastiche Turner indulged in on ‘The Age of the Understatement’, the 2008 album he released via The Last Shadow Puppets, his side project with old mucker Miles Kane. And there’s more than a hint of Monkeys’ divisive – yet totally majestic – 2018 album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. But if ‘…Mirrorball’ is anything to go by, with its sweeping strings and assuredly languid layering of aching sounds, ‘The Car’ will make that last record seem strangely minimalist, as if Turner was in the first phase of working out his bold new style.
The frontman recently promised The Big Issue that “sci-fi is off the table” with ‘The Car’, adding: “We are back to Earth.” But this lead single is so much more than the earthbound branch of ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. It’s the sound of a band with the headlights on full beam, following their muse to a destination only they can know. And in his new, totally earnest guise, Turner’s gaze is locked firmly on the road ahead. Hop in.
– Arctic Monkeys release ‘The Car’ on October 21 via Domino