Arctic Monkeys is one of the most well-loved rock bands of the 21st century. Hailing from Sheffield, England, this quartet has reached international fame over the past two decades. They’ve garnered a loyal fan base, put out albums relatively consistently and have created high expectations for the quality of their work — so how does “The Car” measure up?
Released on Oct. 21, “The Car” is Arctic Monkeys’ seventh studio album. Since the band’s massive success with “AM” in 2013, they’ve had a change in the direction of their music, and this album reflects that. Many long-time fans were displeased with the successor to “AM,” “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” due to major alterations in the overall sound that characterized the band in years prior.
While many aspects of their music shifted, two of the most notable changes are frontman Alex Turner’s vocal style and drummer Matt Helders’ overall role.
Turner’s voice over the time between “AM” and “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” matured drastically, no longer alluring and suave but rather aggressive and undisciplined. In “The Car,” his voice retains a bit of its aggression, but it sounds more soothing and delicate, reflecting the shift in the albums’ lyrical components and structures.
Helders’ involvement is a different ordeal. Since the band’s origins, they have had a heavy metal influence, from percussive elements — specifically, the drums. With “Tranquility Base,” it seemed that Helders barely played anything. This is similarly true with “The Car,” but he appears to regain a bit of playing time, not to mention that he photographed the picture for the cover of the LP.
Overall, I think the album is solid. Personally, it takes me a long time to decide if I actually enjoy new music released by my favorite artists, and after a month of listening, I’ve come to my conclusion.
The lyrical depth and complexity echoes that of “Humbug,” “Tranquility Base” and one of the albums from Turner’s side project — The Last Shadow Puppets — titled “Everything You’ve Come To Expect.” One aspect of this album that I find unique compared to the others is its self-reflective nature. The band has covered a range of topics over the years, but Turner has very rarely made a retrospective of his work in Arctic Monkeys.
Another thing I enjoy about the lyrics is their balance of seriousness and emotional depth with humor. Despite being able to compose music and write lyrics that can be utterly gut-wrenching and tear-jerking, they’ve managed to make “ur mom” jokes and talk of Lego Napoleon movies sound eloquent.
Speaking of such, Arctic Monkeys have continued to use cinema to inspire their work. This album in particular draws from popular film scores and cinematic themes, though a few of their past works have done a similar thing.
My criticisms are few but, I believe, significant. The whole album feels sleepy. There are not many upbeat songs, and the whole album takes on a similar tone. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s definitely not something you can enjoy well unless you set aside time to intently listen.
I also find that their new sound has taken quite a bit to get used to. I’ve been a fan for a while, and I appreciate and enjoy their new music — especially since it means they’re making what they actually want to make rather than trying to conform to certain expectations. For new and old fans alike, this can be challenging.
Regardless of these criticisms, I think this is one of Arctic Monkeys’ most artistic and meaningful pieces of work, and it signals great things ahead. I hope that they continue to hone their divergence from the mainstream and their sonic experimentation.
Album: “The Car”
Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Favorite tracks: “Sculptures Of Anything Goes,” “Jet Skis On The Moat,” “Body Paint”
Shamrocks: 4 out of 5
Contact Anna Falk at firstname.lastname@example.org.