Guests gather in the sunken conversation pit in the living room of your mid-century modern home. You decide to pop a record on. The black vinyl reflects the dimly lit chandelier floating above your head. You shimmy down a hall of bay windows, the night just on the other side of the glass dark and enthralling. Laughter and conversation bubble up from the other room. The scent of cinnamon and leather wraps you in a warm hug. But the Margaritaville waiter snaps you out of this trance and asks you if you saved any room for dessert; that is the best and only appropriate analogy for listening to Arctic Monkeys’ seventh studio album, “The Car”.
This album starts as an unusually pleasant, clean break from the punk rock sound Arctic Monkeys have consistently supplied since the mid-2000s, and yet, the group still manages to maintain a certain love-struck allusiveness with their lyricism. You can almost see yourself in the story that this album tried — and failed — to paint for listeners; alongside characters such as Mr. Schwartz and Richard York that were tossed in, and whether it was to conceptualize the album or because they needed fluff remains a mystery. Alex Turner’s vocals mirror that of David Bowie and Al Green, but the lack of his signature, primal sound causes a slow transition into Tiny Tim territory.
And just when we thought nothing could be worse than their “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”, this thoughtless blur manages to be orchestrated just poorly enough to miss the archive of exceptional Arctic Monkeys albums. There is hardly any differentiation between the ten tracks. While the heavenly sound of string instruments adds an element of intrigue, it isn’t enough to save the deficiency of funk and depth. “The Car” brings to the surface feelings of desperation and longing, coupled with hopeless romanticism, but this can get lost in translation between metaphors and big, misconstrued words. It packs a solid, groovy punch in the beginning, but the fuse that they lit fizzles out in the middle and is completely dead by the time the last song rings out. To put it nicely, this album is a shoddy attempt at recreating Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”. Their desire to create something soulful and avant-garde that differed from their usual catalog was simply a swing and a miss. It’s tied with their 2009 “Humbug” for the shortest record, and that might be a good thing. If you ever find yourself in desperate need of a dinner party soundtrack, this album’s got you covered. But beyond that point, the 37 1⁄2 minutes it will take for you to listen to “The Car” can be spent doing much better, more entertaining things.
Written by: Cassidy Kennedy