Arctic Monkeys have finally released their long awaited comeback single ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ after four years of fans wondering if they should prepare to mourn their heroes, after 2018’s ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ was both a runaway success, hitting number 1 in charts around the world, and at the same time left half of the group’s audience confounded and a little offended by the arguably un-rock’n’roll sounds they were being rudely introduced to.
The first single from the Sheffield boys’ forthcoming seventh studio album ‘The Car’ is as divisive as their last LP, choosing to stick with the lounge music blueprint of that record, and yet again the Monkeys’ fanbase are either tearing their hair out in outraged clumps or stroking their chins, nodding “yeah, I get this, I like this…”, but the question we really want to pose is why are people so shocked that Alex Turner and co have ended up doing this?
Since their primacy, Arctic Monkeys have been vocal about the discomfort the success thrust on them has made them feel, lead singer Turner famously describing ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ as “a bit shit”, the deliciously self-deprecating lead song from their ‘Who The Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?’ EP waiting uneasily with baited breath for the music press to turn on them, summed up by the venomous call to “Bring on the backlash”, not at all seeing what the rest of the world saw in their rudimentary but heartfelt indie rock songs.
2013’s ‘AM’ is potentially the pinnacle of Arctic Monkeys: the rock’n’roll band, where they got properly deep down and heavy, embraced the blues rock fuzz pedals, distilling love, loss, drugs and Northern England down into one album and brought Josh Homme along for the ride. A perfect crystallisation and highpoint of success, an achievement that could give even the toughest band a crisis of confidence over the best way to construct a follow-up.
The first seeds of their current meanderings were sown when the b-sides of 2006 stand-alone single ‘Leave Before The Lights Come On’ included a cover of 1960’s pop standard ‘Baby I’m Yours’ delivered with a laid-back crooner panache and only two years later Turner teamed up with Miles Kane of The Rascals to put out a couple of albums as The Last Shadow Puppets, collections that ranged from James Bond theme material, Burt Bacharach aping numbers and sounds you would imagine hearing in a smoky Parisian jazz bar. Fast forward right up to 2017, the year before the release of ‘Tranquility Base…’ and who do we see co-writing a space age, lounge pop album with singer-songwriter Alexandra Saviour? Yep, Turner’s back tinkering about with the smouldering jazz sounds again.
Another claim put forward is that these records are out of place and at odds with the rest of the current music scene, but by casting your sights a bit further to Father John Misty, Lana Del Rey and the band’s old pal Miles Kane it’s possible that, if anything, these records are far more at home in 2022 than a lot of alternative artists still trying to write the Oasis song that never was. This isn’t entirely the alien ground it at first seems.
The melancholic song itself, then. The indisputable facts are: The melody is suave and angelic, the strings are richly luscious and sparse piano never fails to lend an air of suit and tie sophistication. You can tell Alex Turner savours the opportunity to truly and full-throatily sing and his lyrics are still shot through with dry wit as he tries to keep a glamorous, light-hearted cool while a relationship ends, requesting at least a mirrorball amidst the desolation. In a scene where much of the indie world prefers to dress down, with spoken word or shouty lyrics, Arctic Monkeys are determined to get smartly coiffured, dress up and buck the trend.
The biggest mystery that’s left outstanding surrounding ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’, we’d dare to suggest, is how on earth does one of our generation’s greatest drummers, Matt Helders, feel about being relegated to sweeping drums with jazz brushes rather than bashing those skins up like a virtuoso on ‘Brianstorm’ et al? We’ll give our final hope to Helders getting his moment to shine elsewhere on ‘The Car’.
If you’ve been living under a rock then you might not know that ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ was released on 30th August 2022. ‘The Car’ is due to be released on 21st October 2022 and available to pre-order on limited grey vinyl right now.
‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ has its own music video and we thought you might like to watch it below: