Released: 21st October 2022
With the release of ‘The Car’, Arctic Monkeys are seven albums in and selling out stadium shows without even trying. At a point in their career when most bands are playing greatest hits sets and flogging anniversary vinyl, there’s not much left for them to prove.
If anyone was wondering whether they were aware of this, Alex Turner crooning the phrase “freaky keypaaad” over a ludicrously funky instrumental on ‘I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am’ should banish any doubts.
That’s right, Arctic Monkeys have gone funk. Well, sort of. Where last album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ drew on 60s futurism, all space travel and martinis on the moon, ‘The Car’ instead looks to the early 70s for inspiration. It’s more a filter pasted over the top than a wholesale tribute, but on songs like ‘Jet Skis on the Moat’ and title-track ‘The Car’ you can almost taste the cigarette smoke.
Intertwined with the new influences are plenty of old. The album as a whole takes most obviously from ‘Tranquility Base’, foregrounding pianos and gentle, meandering songs instead of the guitar-driven bangers which first propelled the band to fame. Traces of the old do remain though, with ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes’ feeling like a nod to ‘AM’ in sound, if not pace.
The major addition to ‘The Car’ compared to Arctic Monkeys’ other albums is the ever-present string section. The whole record is driven and deepened by an orchestra which wouldn’t be out of place on a Bond theme. First single ‘There’d Better Be a Mirrorball’ remains the best example of this, but there’s barely a song on the album which doesn’t lean into it in a major way.
The flipside of this is that fans of classic Arctic Monkeys bangers in the vein of ‘Arabella’ are going to be sorely disappointed. The closest ‘The Car’ gets is ‘Hello You’, a pacey late-album track which boosts the energy substantially. It’s also the closest the album comes to a traditional chorus and has an earworm of a synth line that destined to be stuck in everyone’s head forevermore.
Arctic Monkeys haven’t been the band who wrote ‘Brianstorm’ for years. If they were, it’s unlikely they’d have maintained their position in the top tier of UK music across seven albums and over 15 years. ‘The Car’ is yet another example of how much the band evolve between each release, without jettisoning everything that came before.
It’s unlikely to win over anyone who wasn’t a fan of the left turn the band took on the last record, but if you meet ‘The Car’ on its own big-collared, sepia-sunglassed terms, you’ll have a great time. Still, there’d be no harm in throwing in just a couple more choruses on the next album, would there lads?