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One year of Arctic Monkeys’ The Car

By Daman Singh, October 21 2023

After releasing arguably the most important indie-rock album of the 2010s with AM (2013), full of stadium anthems and structured rock fits, Arctic Monkeys took a complete 180 by making one of the most polarizing albums from a mainstream band: a lounge psychedelic-rock album about a hotel on the moon, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (2018). They left their fanbase divided into people who couldn’t move on from the highs of the nervy sound of their historic, guitar-driven debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) and those who appreciated the band’s direction and bold creative choices. One thing was for certain: there was no going back to making the same music from when they were 19.

Four years after Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, the band came back with another push away from their indie sound. The Car (2022) picked up where their sixth album left off. Coming in with the Bond-esque songwriting writing and instrumentation of “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball”, it was evident that the band levelled up with one of their most thought-provoking tracks as the first single. After the live debut of the funk-driven “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am”, fans were left confused as to what direction this album was headed into. The band didn’t release the track officially until close to the album’s release but it became a staple in the tour setlist and it grew on people. The audience began to appreciate the funky constructed rhythm-driven nature of the track as time went on.

During their tour, the band came back to British soil for an exclusive night after four years. Headlining Readings Festival with the return of some lost tracks from their discography, namely “That’s Where You’re Wrong” and “Suck it And See” with newer and expanded arrangements. Across the tour, tracks like “Big Ideas” and “Mr. Schwartz” made live debuts before official releases bringing an idea of how the album would sound: cinematic.

On Oct. 21, The Car came out and it did not disappoint. The ten-track run was a cinematic leap from the chaos and cynicism of their previous album. Lyrically and sonically this was the band at their best so far. 

The Car takes away the rhythm guitar and replaces it with an orchestra for most of the songs. In doing so it gives the music a new element like that of Turner’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets, while maintaining the core Arctic Monkeys’ sound. Tracks like “Body Paint” are reminiscent of early works like “A Certain Romance”, while “Mr. Schwartz” provides a sense of comfort with just an orchestra and gentle acoustic plucking. “Sculptures Of Anything Goes” is the closest the band has come to writing a James Bond theme and their recent Dublin gig where they performed the song with live strings, only proves that Turner should be doing the next Bond movie soundtrack. 

Side B of the record gives you the most cohesive and thought-provoking run of songs Arctic Monkeys have ever done. “Big Ideas” puts you in the shoes of Turner himself in a way “Star Treatment” from the 2018 album did, but the former takes away the space metaphors and gives you his honest vulnerable thoughts. The final song on the album is a swan song to the band’s discography. “Perfect Sense” is what The Car is meant to be; it’s symbolic of fulfillment and satisfaction of the life the band has lived. If Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was a look back on their life as the front page for rock music, The Car feels like Alex Turner saying goodbye to it.

Currently the band has concluded their world tour and have talked about taking a break. After a year of The Car’s release, the band has gone on to do their greatest tour so far. Their setlists have brought back classics like “A Certain Romance” and “Mardy Bum” that no one thought would be played again, and they’ve headlined the iconic Glastonbury pyramid stage for the third time, leaving their imprint on the history of rock music with their most explosive “Body Paint” outro. 

Acknowledging the talk about disbanding after this album, Turner has said he wouldn’t leave the band for anything, that they’re family to him, giving something for the fans to cope with as the band rests after a year of touring. It’s unsure where the Arctic Monkeys will go from here, but it is for sure that whatever comes next, the band is done trying to sound how people want them to and is simply doing what feels right.

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