“The Car”: A melancholy ballad of moving on

Arctic Monkeys’ newest album “The Car,” released on Oct. 21, is a 10-track avant-garde narrative through the glitz and glamor of 1970s aesthetics. That is to say, it is definitely not for everyone. It has fallen deeper down the rabbit hole that their album “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” began to dig in 2018, characterized with synthesizers and booming orchestras. Yet, lead singer Alex Turner’s sharp lyrics and the cohesive sounds backing make it a hit for those brave enough to give it an unbiased listen. 

At its core, this is an album of longing and disillusionment without any extreme stance on the joy or despair of these disoriented feelings. Turner puts it best in “Big Ideas,” where he mourns for “The ballad of what could’ve been” and in “Mr. Schwartz,” when he finally concludes that it is “As fine a time as any to deduce / The fact that neither you or I has ever had a clue.” This album is another lyrical phenomenon that strays away from their previous tones of love-struck poetry and instead shifts toward an introspective stream of consciousness.

There is a maturity here, highlighted by the shifting sound Arctic Monkeys have capitalized on for their two most recent albums. They are no longer the punk-rock newbies they once were, and the new tones of the band reflect that. Both “The Car” and “Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino” have similar retro feels, but while the latter may have taken us to space with otherworldly riffs and star-studded ideas, the former has grounded us back on Earth. Now, we are in for a smoky nightclub feel, with Turner as our melancholic lounge singer and a carefully cultivated background track to his questioning ramblings. 

This album has received more mixed reviews than past hits, but while some may be disgruntled at the aforementioned pivot in the band’s tone, it is simply time to move on. Expecting them to keep the same sound from their first album or from “AM” would only result in overdone songs lacking originality and passion. Growth, even in a profit-focused music industry, requires change. Our beloved Arctic Monkeys have long since left the days of aggressive headbangers, maturing to orchestral surroundings.

Within ten songs, Arctic Monkeys have managed to fit not only a story depicting their rise and fall in the rock genre, but also detailed diary entries of this struggle. The band is no longer holding themselves to the standard of 2014 Tumblr trends and are learning to live with that decision. This use of narrative within the album is beautifully done, transporting us into their minds, with lulling metaphors and swirling symphonies. The jazz tone is personal, and the album is not meant to torture us with any accusations, but rather take us along for the journey they have experienced. 

One downfall, yet possibly the reason for its seamless cohesion, is the monotony of some songs. A few tracks, namely the mellow similarities between titular song “The Car” and “Big Ideas,” cause a lack of musical diversity that may stifle the ambition the album attempts. It is hard to focus on this closely though, when the flow is so enticing and intermixed with groovier, upbeat songs like “Body Paint” or given a grandiose send-off with “Perfect Sense.”

“The Car” is an album that is entirely dependent on personal taste because of its stark differences from the band’s previous hits. Due to its overarching themes of growth though, it is unreasonable to hate the album for this development and equally as unreasonable to expect every fan to love it. Time has done wonders for Arctic Monkeys, and this album is a testament to focusing on oneself and the consequences of success. Whether biased by love or hate for these themes, take a moment to intently listen. The self-reflection may surprise you.