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Arctic monkeys the car

Why Arctic Monkeys’ The Car is already ageing brilliantly

Boasting big ideas and delivering on them, the band's seventh album offers escapism through its thick, luxurious sounds and a self-referential approach to songwriting that snaps us back to reality.

Somebody call 999 – Richard Hawley’s been robbed.

Nearly 17 years on, the weight of meaning in Alex Turner’s iconic one-liner, spoken shortly after Arctic Monkeys got on stage to accept the 2006 Mercury Prize, is only just being realised.

The remark hinted at the sheer magnitude of Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner and its enduring influence is deeply woven into the Monkeys' seventh studio album. While that’s just one of the many styles of sound I’m drawn to on the record, it’s an indicator of why 2022's The Car is already ageing brilliantly.

Carving their own unique path authentically and unapologetically, the funkadelic sounds of the 70s pierce through the airwaves on ‘Jet Skis On The Moat,' ‘Hello You,' and ‘I Ain't Quite Where I Think I Am.' Soulful and buoyant, these songs seem to be inspired by a mysterious Spotify playlist that was brought to Matt and Alex’s attention in a press interview, called ‘DEL SCHWARTZ’.

Perhaps it was made by Alex, but even if it wasn’t, its contents align neatly with many of The Car’s sensibilities. Filled with French instrumentals similar in tone to ‘Mr Schwartz' and cinematic scores that remind us of ‘There’d Better Be A Mirrorball,' and ending with the iconic Iranian singer Googoosh's single ‘Talagh,’ the playlist affirms the diversity of the band's output today. With an appreciation of funk and psychedelic rock beyond borders, the evolution of Arctic Monkeys seems unstoppable.

With fluorescent lights now dimly lit, ‘The Car’ whispers sweetly with an abundance of strings like a Nino Rota composition. Press play and it feels like you're riding an elevator in a Bond film. Fashioned with grand production, the second single picks up where ‘Mirrorball’ left off. Alex’s falsetto shows no sign of letting up when we reach ‘Body Paint.’ Deeply nostalgic like an instant classic, it mixes the best of The Beatles and Queen.

Despite its critics, The Car fits best as an Arctic Monkeys album, not a mere extension of The Last Shadow Puppets, a clone of Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino or exclusively an Alex Turner project. ‘Perfect Sense,' ‘Big Ideas' and the darker ‘Sculptures of Anything Goes' hold the album up as a group effort that doesn’t pull any punches.

Yet it still manages to master introspection, lacing self-referential lyrics with expansive melodies and an air of wistful acceptance. As Alex channels his storytelling through meta lyrics and Jamie Cook's wired-up Moog synthesiser, he offers one of the most important lines on the record, addressing fans and the band candidly: “Puncturing your bubble of relatability / With your horrible new sound.”

There’s no doubt that time has already been – and will continue to be – favourable to The Car. When the darker and more experimental Humbug came out, it was different. When the retro sun-drenched tones of Suck It and See debuted, it was different. The same for every Arctic Monkeys album before and after those mentioned; each was different in its own remarkable way.

Whether they intended it or not, The Car is a reminder that nothing can ever really be the same as it once was, and neither does it need to be. From the artwork and their live performances to the record's contents, every inch of The Car shimmers with a sparkle that confirms Arctic Monkeys have still got it, producing some of their best music to date. The more you listen, the more you uncover, and the more it’s possible to make sense of the masterful melodies and enrapturing songwriting on show here.

The Car allows you to sit with it for a while. Listen at dusk, listen at dawn – perhaps during the quieter, gentler hours – and let your mind get whisked away.

by Sahar Ghadirian (she/her)
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