Album Review: Cars by Arctic Monkeys
This article was originally published on Mxdwn
“To see the magic, you must believe in it first” is perhaps the saddest excuse for an unconvincing performance. This is something British golden boys Arctic Monkeys have relied on since their 2013 rebrand that, as of today, has given us one above-average and two masterfully mediocre records (in that order). Cars carries on the group’s tradition of lethargic ballads that blend into one another, not because they sound alike but due to their inability to evoke passion.
Somewhere along the line, frontman Alex Turner decided that his obsession with crooning is best suited to second-rate lounge music and that it must dictate the band’s creative output. Doing so has turned the Sheffield four-piece into the one thing we mustn’t make excuses for: boring. But excuses will be made because that’s how Arctic Monkeys even got here. Their landmark fifth album, AM, marked a shift in their approach, which in turn attracted more listeners. This is always a win, but their shaggy MO up until that point had fans thinking they were getting behind a switch so audacious and offbeat that it wasn't for everyone. This, of course, wasn’t at all the case — the group was simply transitioning from rock to pop, but with a Tumblresque hipster edge that made their Romantic gimmick seem far more authentic than it really is.
If you’re a fan of Arctic Monkeys, you’ll think highly of this new record, but if you’re a fan of music, you’ll barely get through it. You might, however, be thankful for a slumber so deep it’ll make you reconsider your NyQuil hobby.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is without question one of the crispiest packages of the 21st century — a damn-near flawless collection of garage rock seasoned with endearing lad charm. It’s strange to think that in the decade and a half since then, the lead singer and songwriter went from being the band’s strongest link to its weakest. It’s a matter of time before everyone except Turner’s apologists realizes that the latest album (as well as the one before it) would’ve been far better without his dreary vocals; solid even, like a baroque-pop alternative to the lo-fi study girl stream on YouTube.
“There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” the opening track and lead single, is a spark that shows promise, but it all goes downhill immediately after with very few upticks, none of which deserve a mention. The silence that ensues as this painfully underwhelming record comes to an abrupt halt prompts the draining realization that the second listen will most likely make no difference if the first one passed you by so discreetly.
Cars is dull and pretentious, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise because the last album was no different. It sounds like it was made by people who think turtlenecks, slick-back hair and leather shoes equate to being “classy,” except they now have gold necklaces and stubbles. The takeaway is that Arctic Monkeys haven’t exceeded or fallen short on expectations, but rather anchored them — they are everything people say they are. Nothing much has changed since Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino except we now know they haven’t learned their lesson.
This record is a drag through ten blurry cuts of humble narcissism. At worst, these are 37 minutes of your life you will not get back; at best, you’ll drift off into oblivion. Currently, Turner and his group haven’t much to offer besides memories. Despite being one of the biggest bands in the world, it’s a shame they couldn’t even secure the title for best album on the night of their release.