Tuesday, February 11, 2014


"Arabella" / Arctic Monkeys

Just saw these guys in concert last weekend, and I was so smitten with this song from their great new album AM, I had to add Arabella to the 52 Girls line-up. (Even though I already had a post all worked up on "Mardy Bum" . . . .)

Reverby space-age guitar riffs and a catapulting drumbeat launch us immediately, and Alex Turner's lyrics extravagantly develop the galactic theme, describing Arabella's "interstellar gatorskin boots" and "Barbarella silver swimsuit" (the image leaps to my mind, readymade, of Jane Fonda as a pouty outer space sex kitten in that 1960s cult classic Roger Vadim flick). This kind of imagistic writing always makes me think of Robyn Hitchcock, and you know that's a plus in my book. In verse two Turner marvels, "It's an exploration, she's made of outer space / And her lips are like the galaxy's edge / And her kiss the colour of a constellation falling into place." None of which can possibly be true, and yet the sense of it is clear -- this guy is beyond dazzled with his girl.

The girl in question being Alex Turner's partner, the gorgeous Arielle Vandenberg. (Google her -- she is indeed a knockout.) He's so under her spell, he imagines "a helter skelter [translation: an amusement park spiral slide] 'round her little finger / And I ride it endlessly." Not much plot here, but the vividness, the cinematic detail, of his fantastical descriptions put us completely in the moment and at the scene.

Dig the punchy whiplash rhythms of this passage, sung more or less a capella: "My days end best when this sunset gets itself / Behind that little lady sitting on the passenger side / It's much less picturesque without her catching the light / The horizon tries but it's just not as kind on the eyes." Sure, he could just have said "I dig driving in my car with my baby," but that convoluted syntax flips reality, until we're in the car with them, seeing how his world has been turned upside down. Even the most glorious sunset is only a minor backdrop when Arabella is around. There's an ironic chuckle to his voice as he describes her with the cliché "kind on the eyes" -- she is SO much more to him.

For all the verbal ingenuity of the verses, the chorus is refreshingly simple, a delighted groan of her name, with falsetto vocals teasing him: "Just might have tapped into your mind and soul / You can be sure." Ya think? And then the ecstatic guitar riffs commence to peel off.

You want sexy? Oh, well, you've come to the right place. In the last verse he regards her with lascivious pride: "That's magic in a cheetah print coat / Just a slip underneath it I hope."  The call-and-response of the lyrics, their blurry speed, are a little psychedelic, but why not? This girl is a trip worth taking. He bums a cigarette from her -- any intimate contact is good -- and as he watches her drink a coke (sorry, not just a coke, a "Mexican coke"),  it "makes you wish that you were the bottle." Unh-hunh.

When the lyrics are this good, who needs story?

32 DOWN, 20 TO GO


Anonymous said...

Hi! What a great blog! You write about many of my favourite songs/artists: Lowe, Costello, Kinks... Thanks. /Janne A

Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks, and welcome!