The Car is the seventh studio album released by the indie rock group Arctic Monkeys on October 21, 2022. Unlike their first 5 albums, The Car takes a more laid-back, 70’s, jazz-influenced approach, like their 2018 album, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. The group got their breakthrough in 2005 and has gone through a plethora of different sounds throughout their albums, but have remained consistent in their captivating vocals, incredible guitar work, and the support of their massive fanbase worldwide. The Car has 10 tracks, each proving a slightly different sound on their own, but all come together to form a wonderfully cohesive album.
As someone who considers their favorite all-time artist to be Arctic Monkeys, this album release was incredibly exciting for me. The complete dichotomy between their older albums and this newest album is drastically different but shows a great growth of the band as a whole and gives us a good outlook on any future projects they may release.
The lead-off of the album was released as a single and gave fans a good idea of what this album was going to sound like. There’d Better Be A Mirrorball feels like a song that would have been played at a fancy event by a live band. Alex Turner sings about an emotional breakup between him and his partner. The split between the two of them was difficult, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel for both. Turner seems to be taking the split better than his girlfriend, as she is cynical, and having a hard time accepting the split between the two of them. There is an incredible amount of metaphors behind this song that could mean a lot of different things depending on the person you speak to, but in my eyes, it feels like the breakup between their old music and their new music. They have grown apart, and Turner needed to implement this new sound to the band to find his light at the end of the tunnel.
I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am is by far the funkiest track on the album, with an incredible guitar performance from Jamie Cook. Being unsure of the people around you and feeling disillusioned and isolated in this party at the French Riviera. There are different things this song might mean, but in the context of the story the album is following, this party that Turner is at with his girlfriend is difficult for him to be at. There’s a lot happening around him that is distracting him of his current troubles, but it still plagues him at the back of his mind.
Sculptures of Anything Goes delves deep in the pressure faced by Arctic Monkeys when they announced that they would be changing their sound as a band. From the viewpoint of the audience, they favor their previous style and criticize the change they made in their new work. Turner mentions the backlash received from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which divided the fanbase. Arctic Monkeys no longer lives the fast-paced lifestyle they once used to live before their hiatus in 2014. The unsureness of fans about their new approach is present throughout the track. Turner longs for the approval of fans with their new work, which would eliminate some of their insecurity, as well as the understanding that they are no longer the group they once were.
Continuing the use of metaphors, Jet Skis on the Moat poses a question about any possible objections Turner’s partner may feel about the change the group has gone through. The use of the term “paint job” ties the track back in with the title of the album, with the car getting a new coat of paint. There is reference to cinema and the addiction problems many performers face, which is another play on Turner speaking to his fans. There is a fine line between supporting and enabling an addiction, and by continuing to feed fans with the old sound they knew, it would only continue to validate their behavior about criticizing their move into a new sound for the group.
Body Paint is another track that was previously released as a single prior to the album release. Deception is the main idea behind this track, as Turner is aware that his girlfriend has been having an affair. He mentions how predictable they are, and that she has stopped trying to hide the affair from him. Body Paint is referring to the traces left on his partners body from the other person she has been seeing. Nothing can be done to reverse the damage that she has done. He infers that she knew Turner was aware of the affair, but he continued to play along and act like nothing had even happened.
The title track, The Car, takes a slower approach from the previous tracks. Turner is embracing his older style of creating music, but he still feels uncomfortable with this in comparison to the other music that comes out nowadays. He is aware that this album isn’t weird in any way, but putting this feeling into words was incredibly important for him to do. The chorus reintroduces the love interest, and how she might be sneaking off to the car to escape the company of Turner, or possibly reuniting with the person she is having an affair with.
If any fans needed closure that old Arctic Monkeys has died, this is the track for them. Their old rock style was stuck in a people pleasing genre forever, and these Big Ideas did lead them to the success they had always hoped for. As nostalgic as it may be for Turner to reminisce on their success, he can’t remember how he used to act as that person. There is no turning back to how they used to be, but it was a pleasure while it lasted. Even though they can perform the same, with a similar enthusiasm, they cannot go back to their old ways.
Hello You breaks through with a more upbeat track in comparison to the two previous songs. This song feels like a new beginning, and how exciting it feels to explore something new for the first time with confidence. With the release of this new album, the group has finally decided to take their careers in a new direction with their new sound, as they have officially let go of the past. Even though this new direction gives them an incredible amount of joy, there is still something good about thinking about when things used to be simpler when they first formed their band.
You might listen to this track and ask yourself, who is Mr. Schwartz? Delmore Schwartz was an American poet who had a drug and alcohol problem throughout his life. He had gone into hiding a year before his death and passed away alone from a heart attack. Turner uses Mr. Schwartz to discuss how even though people may be struggling with their own issues, they appear strong to save other people’s feelings. It’s not uncommon for people struggling with mental health issues to put on a façade to appear okay for the sake of others. There’s a certain amount of insecurity behind forcing yourself to act a certain way to fit into social situations.
The final track on The Car is a final goodbye and signoff to the story following the album. Perfect Sense is looking back on their entire career as a band, and that the rise to stardom is not, and has never been a race. Knowing the things that they know now; things seem to make perfect sense when they once didn’t. The track mentions saying goodnight multiple times, which is the group officially saying goodbye to their old sound, as well as signing off their seventh album.
Even though this album covers a lot of ideas, and uses metaphors to conceive their thoughts and ideas, it all sums up into a beautiful story of how far they have come, all they have been able to accomplish, and turning the page onto their new sound. The realization that things are harder to give up than they may seem, whether that be their old style of music, a partner you love, or an addiction, runs deep in The Car, and tells the story in a beautiful and dynamic way.
It’s hard to rate this album on a scale of 1-10, or rate it a certain number of stars out of five (Four Stars Out Of Five reference), but I think this album encapsulates their entire career so far in a really beautiful way. It’s hard letting something go, and they realize that, but it needed to be done. As a fan of Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, this new album felt like a continuance of that for me, but with an incredible amount of confidence finally behind their work. A lot can be said about the impact of confidence, but it truly shows that they have come into their element. I think this must be one of my favorite Arctic Monkeys albums out of all seven. The sound is incredibly different, but that is what makes it stand out the most. It’s better to accept yourself and what you want to do rather than conform to what everybody else wants you to be, and they understand that.