Arctic Monkeys releases new album ‘The Car’

The Car embraces stunning strings and synths with occasional 
funk throwbacks.

Domino Recording Company

‘The Car’ embraces stunning strings and synths with occasional funk throwbacks.

Nolan Sargent, Staff Reporter

U.K. band Arctic Monkeys are known for their frenetic, riff-driven rock. However, their new album “The Car” continues their sonic experimentation, which began with 2018’s loungy, retro-futuristic concept album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.”

Like “Tranquility Base,” this new album may be off-putting to fans of the raucous hits with which the band made their name. While it may take some adjustment, listeners who give “The Car” a chance will find a set of ten beautiful, atmospheric, and meticulously-crafted tracks tinged with melancholy and nostalgia. 

Sonically, “The Car” embraces stunning strings and synths with occasional funk inflections and a healthy dose of ‘70s throwback. As in “Tranquility Base,” this album places far more emphasis on the piano than previous Arctic Monkeys albums. Much of what makes this album such a treat to listen to, however, comes not from the instrumentation, but from frontman Alex Turner’s crooning vocals. The sublime opening track, “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” showcases these vocals in show-stopping fashion. 

The album’s sound is quite consistent throughout, with a few variations such as the funky “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” and “Sculptures of Anything Goes,” which sounds somewhat like a mellowed-out Nine Inch Nails song. This consistency makes “The Car” feel cohesive, but that becomes a double-edged sword as the album goes on. It fails to evolve over time, making its already weaker second half more disappointing. This second half still has its moments, such as album closer “Perfect Sense,” but it never quite reaches the heights of “Mirrorball” or “Body Paint.”

“The Car” retains the obscure lyrical style of “Tranquility Base, and the absence of a unifying core concept makes this album’s lyrics even more difficult to decipher. This may be frustrating for some, but holds promise for those who enjoy analyzing lyrics and coming up with their own interpretations. “Sculptures of Anything Goes,” for example, contains many such inscrutable lines.  

“The simulation cartridge for City Life ’09 / Is pretty tricky to come by.” 

What is clear from the lyrics is a pervasive tone of melancholy and regret. Throughout, Turner sings of longing and partings as he contemplates what could have been. Discontent is nothing new for this band, but “The Car” takes a more sober, pensive approach to the topic. While earlier albums such as “AM” energetically expressed urgent frustration, “The Car” presents a quiet, understated despondency. 

Arctic Monkeys took a risk in doubling down on their stylistic shift, but that risk has paid off with this fantastic addition to their discography.