This October, a significant milestone emerges for Arctic Monkeys fans, marking the one-year anniversary of their latest album release, The Car, and the conclusion of their global tour in support of the album. As we bid farewell to this era, I can't help but contemplate and engage in some wild speculation about what lies ahead for our favorite Sheffield band. Perhaps it's the spooky season or simply wishful thinking, but I recently entertained a daring notion that could be grounded in a hint of plausibility: What if Arctic Monkeys' next album were themed around horror cinema?
Arctic Monkeys have always been masters of innovation, consistently evolving their sound from one album to the next. However, amidst the transitions, there has been an intriguing consistency that I’ve noticed in that at least one song from each era often hints at the band's future musical direction. Looking back I can now say that Cornerstone hinted at Suck It and See, All My Own Stunts foreshadowed AM, and Number 1 Party Anthem gave us a glimpse of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. With these precedents in mind, it's worth delving into The Car for clues about a future Arctic Monkeys release.
One track in particular stands out amongst the rest: Sculptures of Anything Goes. This song adopts a notably darker and more ominous tone compared to the rest of the album. Its distinctive qualities didn't appear to escape the notice of both fans and the band, as it became the album's fourth single. This single was accompanied by a dreary cinematic music video and was frequently performed live during the world tour, even when most of the other album tracks were not consistently included in the live sets.
While Sculptures of Anything Goes may be more somber in tone, its lyrics don't necessarily scream 'horror.' However, Alex Turner, the band's innovative frontman, has a long history of dabbling in horror-themed lyrics. Take You're So Dark, one of the band's most notable B-sides from the AM era. This song references HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Dracula, and The Munsters, delving deep into the realm of horror.
You got your H.P. Lovecraft
Your Edgar Allan Poe
You got your unkind of ravens
And your murder of crows
Catty eyelashes and your Dracula cape
Been flashing triple A passes
At the cemetery gates
This affinity for darkness isn't confined to their B-sides; it's actually a recurring theme that runs through every Arctic Monkeys era. From If You Were There, Beware on Favourite Worst Nightmare to Pretty Visitors on Humbug, and Science Fiction on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the influence of horror is evident and consistent. Even their choice of cover songs reveals a strong connection to the horror genre. In 2009, they recorded and frequently performed a rendition of Red Right Hand, a popular cover of the song by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which is a prominent fixture in the Scream film franchise.
The love for horror themes isn't confined to Arctic Monkeys alone; it extends to Turner's side projects as well. His band, The Last Shadow Puppets, boasts a song titled Dracula Teeth, which oozes horror aesthetics.
I wake up in an ice-cold sweat
And my skin starts to creep
You're hovering above my bed
Looking down on me
Haunted house sound effects
Lipstick on my pillow via my cheek
The full moon's glowing yellow
And the floorboards creak
Moreover, Turner's lyrical inclinations towards the eerie are evident in his rendition of Leonard Cohen's Is This What You Wanted, where he muses, "And is this what you wanted to live in a house that is haunted by the ghost of you and me?” This fusion of horror and themes of love remains a consistent hallmark of Turner's style and will undoubtedly inform my speculative thoughts about what the future may hold for Arctic Monkeys.
I would also like to point towards some of Turner's writing credits to offer some insight into how I think the band might venture into a spookier direction in the future. In 2017, Turner played a substantial role in Alexandra Savior's album Belladonna of Sadness. While this album doesn't fit the traditional horror genre, it could easily find a place on a Wednesday Addams playlist due to its ability to create a haunting and eerie atmosphere, often evoking feelings of melancholy. Turner is also credited on some of the darker tracks from Miles Kane's debut album, Colour of the Trap, with a track such as Telepathy possibly offering a glimpse of how shadowy elements could be further incorporated into Arctic Monkeys' style.
Even beyond their lyrics, Arctic Monkeys have a history of experimenting with sounds that lean towards the spookier side. The transition from their debut to their sophomore album witnessed a shift to more sinister guitar sounds, characterized by eerie reverb, phaser, and tremolo effects. This created a whimsically dark, almost haunted carnival-like atmosphere. This sonic direction continues in the band's third album, Humbug, but in a much heavier and less whimsical manner. Here, the majority of songs are played in minor keys, and the band was clearly influenced by their producer, Josh Homme, known for creating significant horror-themed songs with his band Queens of the Stone Age, such as Burn the Witch. Additionally, there is a more prominent use of the organ in Humbug, which elevates that haunted carnival sound to another level. Even in their later albums, there are instrumental elements that could easily fit into horror-themed productions. The theremin and wurlitzer-like sounds in Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino remain consistent throughout the album and can be heard in songs like Science Fiction and Batphone.
Arctic Monkeys’ recent albums have also seen the piano taking a central role in Turner's songwriting. While the piano is likely to remain a staple, it doesn't mean the band can't embark on a drastically different sonic journey. The band Dead Man's Bones, led by actor Ryan Gosling, offers a stripped-down, piano-driven sound that complements Turner's lower vocal style and could harmonize perfectly with a horror-themed infused romantic approach. Given our earlier discussion of the Alexandra Savior collaboration, I believe that an album resembling the self-titled and horror-cinema-themed Dead Man's Bones album is a wholly plausible direction for Arctic Monkeys in the future.
Diving even further, we know that cinema has long been an influential muse for Arctic Monkeys, with some of their music videos referencing iconic horror films like The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, paying homage to directors like Stanley Kubrick. Even the song title One Point Perspective seems to be a nod towards Kubrick's preferred cinematic style. This cinematic influence has been particularly evident in their last two albums, with cinematic ideas and perspectives pervading their music and music videos. Their pre-release mini-film festival for Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino hinted at the profound influence of cinema on their work and included a number of thriller-esque films such as Le Cercle Rouge, The Conversation, and Inherent Vice.
While only the band members themselves know the true direction of their next album, there's ample evidence to suggest that Arctic Monkeys might just be delving deeper into horror cinema for inspiration. If they decide to create an album akin to Dead Man's Bones, it could blend their signature crooning, clever lyrics, cinematic influences, and love for storytelling into a fresh yet familiar sound infused with horror elements.
As we eagerly anticipate what the future holds for Arctic Monkeys, one thing is clear: the potential for a spine-tingling musical experience looms on the horizon. Will our speculations prove true? Only time will tell, but we'll be here at the edge of our seats, waiting for the next chapter in Arctic Monkeys' musical journey.