CMU Opinion

The new Arctic Monkeys album sounds like a murderous robot from 1984. Probably.

By | Published on Friday 27 April 2018

Arctic Monkeys

Shh. Stop. Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of a new Arctic Monkeys album emerging out of the darkness. What does it sound like? It sounds like nothing. It sounds like something that doesn’t want you to know it’s coming. But you do know it’s coming.

Alex Turner once sang that in order to look good on the dancefloor, one should dance akin to a robot circa 1984. Well, you know what the most famous robot from 1984 is? That’s right, The Terminator. I remember the club scene from that film. And while the titular robot may have moved silently up to the point he entered the venue, things sure got loud once he was in there.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that this clip – that club scene – tells you everything you need to know about the new Arctic Monkeys album.

Does this analogy work on every level? Does it work on any level at all? It’s very hard to say, but it’s the best I’ve got because there’s nothing else for me to share with you about this new Arctic Monkeys record. I’ve been left floundering without the usual tools of album promotion that are always provided to us journalists by the modern music industry.

With two weeks to go until ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is released we should be swimming in a sea of music by now. There should have been a non-single release three months ago. Followed by the first single in audio-only form. Then a lyric video. An official video. Maybe even a ‘visualiser’, although I still haven’t quite worked out what that is.

We should have repeated that process at least two more times with additional preview tracks – maybe classified as ‘singles’, maybe not – and in between all that previewing you’d expect a slew of live sessions to dig into as well. Right now we should be preparing ourselves for the full album stream on NPR.

All-in-all, we should be pretty familiar with where the Arctic Monkeys have headed – musically speaking – on their first album for five years. But we’re not. We know basically nothing about it. Because the Arctic Monkeys feel they’re above the public and media’s need for an endless stream of disposable information.

Instead, I’m sitting here googling ‘1984 robot’ because Turner and co think life would be better if their whole album – and every song, lyric, drum beat and chord progression on it all arrives at the same time, in one moment, on its allotted release date, and not a second before. “Why can’t people wait for things anymore?” the band collectively wondered. “We’ll instil a little bit of patience back into the music buying public”, they added.

Actually, it’s not the whole band who wondered that. For his part, Alex Turner seems as confused as the rest of us as to why there haven’t been any preview-tastic single releases preceding his band’s big new album. “Jamie [Cook, guitarist] was really keen on that idea, and I guess people at Domino”, he tells the new issue of Mojo of the pre-release silence. “But it didn’t come from me”.

Does he approve of this sneaky no-marketing marketing strategy though? “I understand it”, he says, before qualifying that answer with an “I think”. He thinks he understands it. He thinks! An entire marketing campaign based on silence and he only thinks he understands it.

Personally I’d like a bit more confidence in this dramatic anti-marketing marketing concept. And possibly a longer quote about it too. Something about the planning and the outcomes and the expectations. Anything really, so that I don’t end up having to fill column inches with a load of nonsense comparing a record I haven’t heard to an old film about a murderous robot. What a film though. And what an album. Maybe. Who knows?

I mean, forcing me into this corner has meant I’ve also had to build a conceit into this article. Well, more of a barefaced lie really. That being my previous insistence that the Arctic Monkeys haven’t released any audio, or any video, at all, related to this new record. Because do you know what? They actually have. Despite shunning nearly all those zany modern tactics of music marketing, Arctic Monkeys have actually embraced one. And it’s the very worst of those zany modern tactics of music marketing: the album trailer.

That’s right, there’s a 40 second trailer for the album. A brief clip that contains a snippet of new music that cuts off before it reaches anything close to a satisfying point.

Look, I understand that, in the age of YouTube, the way to keep eyeballs on you, among a sea of musicians all shouting into the void, is to share as much content as possible. I understand that this is why there are now so many different forms of YouTube video basically sharing the same content over and over again. But whoever came up with the idea of trailers for albums deserves to be hunted down by a robot from the future.

And this Arctic Monkey’s trailer is particular unsatisfactory. Trailers are supposed to be things that inform and excite you about an upcoming entertainment product. In what world is it acceptable to expect me to actively press play on a 40 second clip featuring abstract images and a little bit of music that goes nowhere?

I want to be tantalised. I want to be on the edge of my seat. Though not like the trailers they have for movies these days – by the way – where they just show you a heavily edited version of the entire film in sequence and in doing so ruin the finished product. I mean trailers like this one from 1984 (from nineteen eighty fo-werr):

Holy shit! I want to see that film right now. That looks great. Buy me two tickets and a gallon of popcorn at the nearest cineplex immediately. I’ve got me some movie to watch. But no trailer for any album has ever had this effect, because it’s just a daft concept. Music simply doesn’t lend itself to the format.

So, to conclude, no previews, no singles, no videos, just one unsatisfactory pointless trailer. Though maybe waiting is a good thing. Maybe patience is a virtue. Maybe this no-marketing anti-marketing marketing campaign is marketing genius, making us anticipate the new record even more. Maybe. Hell, let’s assume that it is.

Well done, The Arctic Monkeys. I’m now anticipating your new album like Sarah Connor lying next to a hydraulic press in a factory. This metaphor still isn’t working, is it?