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  • Matt Codd

The Car Review: Arctic Monkeys’ Seventh Studio Album Sees the Band at Top Gear

‘The Car’ album artwork – photo © Matt Helders 2022

“You’re getting cynical and that won’t do” Alex Turner croons in the opening track of Arctic Monkeys’ 7th studio album, The Car. Cynicism may be something that him and his bandmates have grown accustomed to in recent years. Their previous LP, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was met with a rather mixed receptions from fans. Any hope that a return to the nightclub stomping roots of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is snuffed from the outset on this record.

Despite this, Arctic Monkeys continue to deliver excellence no matter what and The Car is no exception to that fact. An astonishingly creative and luscious record, this album shows that the band aren’t running out of ideas anytime soon. It finds the Sheffield band at their most ambitious, both sonically and lyrically.

The album picks up where Tranquility Base left off, but not only that, it builds a beautiful ode to Arctic Monkeys story so far on the foundations of it. Opening track ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’ is the perfect way to carry those ideas forward, a piano ballad that would not have felt out of place on the 2018 LP. The ethereal track is, however, more grounded than its lunar predecessors, beautifully guided by Alex Turner’s brilliant vocals. Where Tranquility Base is heavily piano-led and ballad focused, The Car is driven by punchy guitar riffs and slick drums, allowing each band member to shine.

Photography by Zackery Michael 2022.

The band has grown in size for the recording of this album also, the four original band members are accompanied by an 18-piece string orchestra for many of the tracks, adding extra layers to songs like ‘Hello You’ and ‘Mr Schwartz’. It’s something that is wrestled with head-on in ‘Big Ideas’, as Turner assumes the role of an artist with amazing ideas heading in one direction, but who finds that “the orchestra has got us all surrounded”, taking them in a complete other direction – forcing them to forget how they used to create music. The lyrics on this cut seem a pretty on-the-nose allegory for the trajectory that Arctic Monkeys have been on since their divisive last record.

The Car is dripping with nods to forebearers as well. The whole album feels as though it was put in a time machine or forced to watch a ‘70s zeitgeist tape. The album cover itself looks eerily like a movie poster for blockbuster starring Steve McQueen. The songs are dripping with ‘70s sensibilities too. The exceptional single ‘Body Paint’ is a glam-rock triumph, and the aforementioned strings add an inescapable feeling of having heard some of these tracks in Roger Moore era James Bond flick.

These influences don’t prevent The Car from feeling incredibly relevant and modern though. ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ booms brilliantly, creating a fantastic sense of foreboding and unease and even features a ‘your mum’ joke for good measure. The brilliant ‘Hello You’ takes inspiration from AM banger ‘Knee Socks’, repurposing the track’s guitar riff to fit snugly here.

Still taken from 'I Ain't Quite Where I Think I Am' music video.

Turner’s lyricism remains as fantastical and detailed as ever, only serving to add to the cinematic nature of the record. Despite this though, the songs on this album feel as personal and introspective as anything we’ve seen from the band. Arctic Monkeys navigate through a heart-breaking love gone sour on ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball’, an identity crisis on ‘Big Ideas’, and a sense of finality on album closer ‘Perfect Sense’.

The Car soars above previous Arctic Monkeys albums in so many ways. It’s more ambitious in scope and yet tighter than almost anything they’ve done in the past, a testament to the band’s development as one. Epic tracks are only made more grandiose by the exquisite strings, layers and textures that can be found on every song. It is an album that insists on multiple listens just in case you missed any of the excellent details hidden throughout. It may not be to everyone’s taste, just like Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, but if you take out the past discography of Arctic Monkeys and view The Car as a standalone record under any other name, it’s greatness would be undeniable. Arctic Monkeys continue to show that they’re willing to go wherever this new road takes them and we’re more than happy to be along for the ride.

The Car is available to stream today, with a special edition custard vinyl available from your local independent record store.


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