Song of the Day #5,292: ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ – Arctic Monkeys

Guest blogger Daniel concludes his countdown of the year’s top albums…

First, two honorable mentions:

Indigo – RM

‘Change pt.2’ has some of my favorite production of the year. It starts with a sparse, borderline obnoxious, bass line in the first half before shifting to an inspired jazz influenced chord progression opening up the second verse. This is one of the most clear indicators throughout this record that RM is simply having fun. There’s a palpable excitement pervasive throughout this record of somebody breaking away from his band looking to find his sound. It’s the same feeling as Harry Styles or Justin Timberlake’s debut album. There are some truly beautiful moments such as ‘Forg_tful’ and irresistible bops such as ‘Still Life.’

It’s Almost Dry – Pusha T

‘Dreamin of the Past’ also has some of my favorite production of the year from one my least favorite people right now. Throughout this album Pusha does what he does best. There’s a sincere respect I have for somebody who knows their lane and bodies it every time. JAY-Z also puts forth what may be my favorite verse of the year on ‘Neck and Wrist’ with lines cold as “Neither I nor my wrist move mockingly, y’all spend real money on fake watches, shockingly”

Best Albums of 2022 – #1
The Car – Arctic Monkeys

Throughout these 10 albums, my prevailing feeling is one of gratitude. When I was at my lowest or my highest this year these albums provided soundtracks that supported and uplifted me. I would never take music for granted and it’s so gratifying to see so clearly that none of my favorite artists do either.

Primarily, Alex Turner who seven studio albums deep with Arctic Monkeys is able to release some of his most personal, profound, and arguably perfect work. There’s never been a doubt in my mind since I first discovered Arctic Monkeys that they are the greatest band of our generation. From an instrumental perspective, it is awe-inspiring how they have been able to shift their sound from record to record never compromising the integrity of any sole instrument.

This is with the qualification that certain roles in the band have decreased in spotlight throughout the years. Matt Helders, who is simply a masterclass drummer, showcases his talents almost relentlessly on the Monkeys’ debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. However, on this record he displays his talents in a different way demonstrating his ability to maneuver different styles from jazz drumming riding the crash on the album’s opener ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ to folk tinged records where he’s providing more of a snare shuffle beat on the titular track ‘The Car.’

It would be easy with an album reliant so heavily on such lush orchestration for the other leading instruments to rest on their laurels. What’s so impressive and what solidifies this album in many ways as my favorite of the year is how with subsequent listens I increasingly discover individual instrumental moments such as Nick O’Malley’s bass lines subtly driving tracks like ‘Mr. Schwartz’ (his entrance on the song at 1:06 is one of my favorite spots on the album).

Now, back to Alex Turner: the bandleader, the voice, and the lyrics. Much like Taylor Swift, it is in following Turner’s journey that one is going to most resonate with the messages and themes from this album. Turner and the rest of the Arctic Monkeys all hail from South Yorkshire, specifically Sheffield. This is essentially the British equivalent of the rustbelt. This is a town that used to thrive off its steel mills and has struggled in recent years with the ever increasing move away from the steel industry. That frustration stemming from a lack of representation is apparent in the Monkeys’ debut album where Turner provides biting social commentary intertwined with pride in his city.

That’s the foundation upon which one can pose the question “What would happen if this boy from Sheffield became just like one of the too cool for school aristocrats he grew up resenting?” The answer: The Car. I began speaking to the instrumental aspects of this album, because I could speak ad infinitum about the lyrical component. With Turner the struggle has always been a fear of being too vulnerable which he masks in high concept art such as Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the Monkeys’ last album where he creates an entire setting of a highfalutin hotel in space just so he can deliver such personal lines as the album’s opening lyric “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes, Now look at the mess you made me make.”

On the opening lyric of The Car Turner seems to be having a conversation with himself saying “Don’t get emotional, that ain’t like you.” From here he continues to thread the delicate needle of touching on the scrutiny from fans, reviewers, and his harshest critic: himself. On tracks like ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ he directly addresses the audience in the second verse providing meta commentary on the song so far saying “Is that vague sense of longing kinda trying to cause a scene?, Guess I’m talking to you now, Puncturing your bubble of relatability, with your horrible new sound.”

One of the most difficult tasks in writing this review has been curating what snippets from the album are able to do it justice as it is best appreciated in its entirety. Even generously proffering four lines as I have above only provides brushstrokes in the intricate painting of this song and every other in the gallery that is The Car.

Needless to say, I don’t find this album to be a “horrible new sound.” In fact, I find it quite inspirational. There are such impactful insights throughout this record tied into retrospection and introspection. Now, I sit in prospection eagerly awaiting what this band who has contributed so much towards the soundtrack of my life will produce next.

Thank you for indulging my musings on this year’s music.

[Verse 1]
How am I supposed to manage my infallible beliefs
While I’m sockin’ it to ya?
Performin’ in Spanish on Italian TV
Sometime in the future
Whilst wonderin’ if your mother still ever thinks of me
Hallelujah

[Chorus]
Blank canvasses leant against gallery walls
Flowing towards sculptures of Anything Goes
On the marble stairs

[Verse 2]
Is that vague sense of longin’ kinda tryin’ to cause a scene?
Guess I’m talkin’ to you now
Puncturing your bubble of relatability
With your horrible new sound
Baby, those mixed messages ain’t what they used to be
When you said them out loud

[Chorus]
Blank canvasses leant against gallery walls
Flowing towards sculptures of Anything Goes
On the marble stairs
Leading to almost wherever you want them to

[Verse 3]
The simulation cartridge for City Life ’09
Is pretty tricky to come by
Village coffee mornings with not long since retired spies
Now, that’s my idea of a good time
Flash that angle, grind a smile, gasp, and roll your eyes
And help me to get untied
From the chandelier
And twizzlin’ ’round an umbrella
I’ll sing day tunes

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #5,292: ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ – Arctic Monkeys

  1. Maddie says:

    So glad that Arctic Monkeys delivered for you in such a big way this year. I’ll admit to being one of the fans left a little disappointed at the superficial “playability” of this album – but your passion for it and this review certainly make me want to sit down with it again.

    Great top 10 countdowns and wonderful reviews across the board ❤️

  2. Peg says:

    I have enjoyed your wonderful reviews and have learned about music I don’t really listen to. Kudos to your insight and excellent writing 👏 ❤️

  3. Dana Gallup says:

    My first impression of Arctic Monkeys was rather negative, partially due to my aversion to critics’ darlings (especially British/Euro critics’ darlings) and partially due to really disliking the raucous jarring beginning of the song “A Certain Romance,” which to this day has the distinction of being the first song that plays when our iTunes library starts to play. Ironically, on the rare occasion when I didn’t immediately skip the intro, the song is actually quite good. It’s kinda the musical equivalent of not judging a book by its cover.

    Anyway, given your high praise and excellent review of the new AC album, I am definitely interested in checking it out, which I suspect may well happen on our drive home from Disney today.

  4. Amy says:

    As I listened to this album over the past few weeks, I came to appreciate how the lead singer delivers so many lines in an unexpected fashion, almost wrapping his vocal performance around the melody. I still don’t find the band particularly accessible. Even after several listens, I can’t bring any of those melodies to mind. Still, their talent is evident, and their “origin story” makes me like them even more.

    I’ve very much appreciated the deeper insight into music you love. It’s sometimes difficult to articulate even to yourself why this or that song or film particularly resonates with you, yet you’ve managed to offer analysis of both the music and yourself during these past ten posts.

    Clay, thank you for inviting the guest blogger to provide us with a thoughtful two weeks of content while you enjoyed your well-deserved vacation. Happy New Year! Looking forward to the film countdown in 2023.

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