Look, I completely understand if The Car by Arctic Monkeys wasn’t at the top of your to-listen list since October 21. Despite being an avid Arctic Monkeys fan, Midnights by Taylor Swift was certainly my priority. Even my computer science class preferred Taylor! More of our class chose to cover her music for our third homework assignment than any other artist, including the runner-up Arctic Monkeys. However, The Car, a lush lounge-rock album, deserves a midnight spin too.
The Car is the seventh studio album by Arctic Monkeys, one of the most popular British rock groups of the 2010s fronted by singer-songwriter Alex Turner. They revolutionized stadium rock with their fifth album AM which is ranked on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. AM is probably my favorite album of all time with catchy, biting choruses and iconic instrumentals.
However, The Car is nothing like AM. Where AM is a crazy night out, all drugs, sex and bloody brawls, The Car feels more like picking your way through a smokey jazz bar, getting on stage to croon about consumption and corruption in Hollywood. If an arthouse Bond flick ever makes it to the silver screen, The Car should be its soundtrack. With winding, strange lyrics set to vivid instrumentation, The Car stands out as a more contemplative and ornate addition to Arctic Monkeys’ discography.
The lead single “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball” is the best track on the album. The song laments the end of a relationship. The lyrics act like a conversation between Turner and his now-former lover, complete with woeful imagery to reflect their tragic fate. Turner sings, “You’re getting cynical and that won’t do/I’d throw the rose tint back on the exploded view/Darling, if I were you.” The jazz-style drums and piano blend beautifully with yearning strings to create a cinematic breakup song.
“Sculptures of Anything Goes” is an honorable mention as its punchy beat reminds me of AM. The blend of synths, drums and strings sounds like a villain’s theme – dark and subtly strong. But I wish these intriguing instrumentals paid off with a climactic solo as it would’ve given the song the spotlight it deserves. The chorus is repeated twice with little distinction from the verses which adds to the song’s peculiar appeal while simultaneously making it less dynamic. This problem unfortunately translates to most of the other tracks on The Car. The haunting lyrics and unique production style work together, but there’s a distinct lack of urgency and sharpness.
I fell in love with Arctic Monkeys because of their true rock n’ roll feel: bawdy, brash and badass. The Car marks a significant departure from this sound, which is why I didn’t particularly enjoy it on my first listen. As I’ve spent more time dissecting each track, though, I’ve come to appreciate its sleek aesthetic sensibilities. The Car is perfect if you’re in the mood for a vivid lounge-rock album to listen to while walking through our chilly campus at midnight.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Official Arctic Monkeys via Youtube.