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Review: Arctic Monkeys - The Car (2022)

With their 7th studio album the Arctic Monkeys have once again evolved their sound to transcend Rock and reach new levels. Following on from their 2018 album, Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino, the band from Sheffield have continued on their journey towards a more soulful and jazzy sound; with a focus on strings and piano, whilst reintroducing more guitar riffs reminiscent of their earlier albums.

We were first introduced to Arctic Monkeys as young lads from Sheffield who were aiming to encapsulate the essence of adolescent life in Britain in their music. As time has passed, each following album has reflected the current standing of the band, slowly moving away from stories of fights with bouncers to crooning love ballads. In The Car, frontman Alex Turner begins to hint on what could be seen as almost imposter syndrome, singing on the album’s second track, I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am, “It’s the intermission, Let’s shake a few hands, Blank expressions invite me to suspect, I ain’t quite where I think I am”. Following this on the ninth track, Mr Schwartz, Alex admits to pretending to be someone else – “And if we guess who I’m pretending to be, Do we win a prize?”. The band and Alex have been global superstars for a while now, so it’s not exactly a surprise to find Alex talking about not fitting in after all the sunny heights of LA are pretty far from High Green, Sheffield. Following on from this Alex muses over just how far they’ve come from their humble beginnings. On Big Ideas he sings “Some were just hysterical scenes, The ballad of what could’ve been, Over and out, Really, it’s been a thrill”. There is a reflective feel to this album, which is not that surprising considering the length of the bands career, and at times it feels like a daydream with Alex looking back at the journey the band’s been on.

Following Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino, the band have continued with their new sound, moving away from the classic rock and roll guitar riffs in favour of more conceptual piano and string melodies. However, The Car feels like a more refined version of this and although on Tranquillity Base I felt that there were times where the band felt lost in their new direction, it seems as if those feelings are gone. The reintroduction of more typical guitar riffs (guitarist Jamie Cook on the eponymous sixth track, The Car, is my favourite part of the entire album) combined with a focus on strings allows them to create a dreamlike atmosphere. The whole album flows well together with increases in tempos coming at the right time. The second half of the album begins with The Car and Big Ideas, two slow ballads which then lead into the upbeat Hello You to breathe some life into this half. Alex himself has talked about trying to strike a balance between the strings and the band and I have to agree, there’s just enough of every part of the band on the record. I’m not left wanting to hear more from the band nor do I feel that the orchestral elements are unnecessary sub-plots.

Since 2006 the Arctic Monkeys have shown us they are not afraid to change. In fact, they’ve actively embraced it. From the angst of Whatever People Say I am That’s What I’m Not to the dark and muddy sounds of Humbug. With The Car the band have managed to create a beautifully atmospheric and cinematic experience highlighting their development as artists and musicians. Alex’s writing is as good as ever; Matt Helders gives fairly simple drum patterns personality; Jamie Cook provides moments of guitar brilliance and Nick O’Malley’s bass lines are the heartbeat for the record. The Monkeys are back and without a doubt still at the top of the UK rock pyramid.


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