Arctic Monkeys “The Car” Album Review

Arctic Monkeys The Car Album Review

Jei Jandura, Features Editor

Arctic Monkeys released their seventh studio album titled “The Car” on Oct. 21, and it is better than I ever could have hoped. The British alternative band has made a name for themselves over their past two decades by working to ensure that no two albums feel the same, and “The Car” has accomplished this brilliantly.

Coming off the heels of their sixth studio album, 2018’s “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino,” which received mixed reviews from both critics and fans due to its jazzier and slower feel that felt incredibly anti-Arctic-Monkeys, the band is trying to take a step away from their garage rock roots that were present on albums like 2006’s “Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not” and 2007’s “Favorite Worst Nightmare.” They achieved this with an album full of orchestral melodies and, on tracks like “Jet Skis On The Moat,” they feature a guitar that sounds like it’s straight out of the ‘70s.

The album opens with the lead single “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball,” a jazzy-strings-heavy song that has a much more down-to-earth feel than their previous album. The song and the album as a whole focus on the idea of a failing relationship and this is demonstrated wonderfully in this track with lines like “for the moment you look them in the eyes and say, ‘Baby it’s been nice.’” Throughout the song, the narrator realizes that he is just another pawn in his dates game and that eventually his heart will be broken and they will part ways. The song’s slow tempo and minor signature help the listener go through the narrator’s experience of being used.

One of the biggest standout songs is “Body Paint,” the second single for the album. The song shows the narrator going through the process of discovering that his partner has been cheating on him: “for a master of deception and subterfuge, you’ve made yourself quite the bed to lie in.” While the song starts incredibly piano-heavy with a steady drum beat it keeps building up through the song with strings joining, followed by an acoustic guitar, and then finally all colliding into an electric guitar-heavy refrain where lead singer Alex Turner sings about how the cheater can’t hide what she has done. Turner’s vocals alone are impressive, but drummer Matt Helders provides backing vocals that really tie the whole song together.

One of the songs that I feel demonstrates some of the best musical ability from the band is “Mr Schwartz,” the penultimate track on the album. The song builds up as each member of the band is given their chance to shine. Helders provides a catchy drum beat that pulls the song along, guitarist Jamie Cook (who has so many brilliant moments on this album) plays a beautiful acoustic guitar part that reminds me of rock and roll songs from the ‘80s, bassist Nick O’Malley is finally heard on this track where he echos the guitar in a more menacing, driving way, and Turner provides one of his best vocal performances and plays one of the better piano parts in the album. While the orchestra is still there sounding absolutely gorgeous, this track finally gives the chance for every member of the band to shine in a very old-Arctic-Monkeys way.

As the album goes on, it is fair to say that no two songs sound the same, with some being complete opposites. While some may see that as a negative, by believing that the differences keep the tone from being consistent, I’d have to disagree. A heavy song like “Sculptures of Anything Goes” which has a deep drone that goes through the song is followed by “Jet Skies On The Moat” which has a funky guitar and heavy piano. While the styles are different, the lyrics convey the same story of a failing relationship and the narrator coming to terms with it. If anything, the differences actually make it so we can really feel all the different emotions the narrator is going through. 

The album does have some issues though. O’Malley was absolutely underused in my book. He is a brilliant bassist and on songs like “Body Paint” and “Mr Schwartz” you can really hear his skill come through but unfortunately, those are really the only two songs where he is very present throughout. The big break in “Body Paint” also stands out as one of the greatest points in the album, and I wish that they did more stuff like that: taking a tune that is beautiful and orchestral and turning it into something heavy. Maybe my want for more bass and heavier breaks is purely out of my want for a rock, or even pop song, from one of their past albums, but it just feels like some songs could have been improved with either a more present bass line or a heavy break. 

Overall I think this album absolutely deserves an 8/10. In my mind, there are definitely Arctic Monkeys albums that are better in terms of musicality (which could very well be my preference for rock music showing) but in terms of lyrics, this album is unmatched. It did a really good job at taking the vibe of “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” and evolving it to make it more lyrically thought-provoking and down-to-Earth. While I don’t think it is the best album the band has ever released (2009’s “Humbug” wins that title), I do think that this album stands as an exciting look into where this band is going.