With ‘The Car’ the Arctic Monkeys continue to mature

The band’s latest album is less about the destination, more about the ride.
Arts & Culture

The Car

Arctic Monkeys (Domino, 2022)

The Arctic Monkeys’ latest album—their seventh LP and first in close to five years—shows the continuing metamorphosis of the outfit Vice once called the “UK’s biggest, most culturally important band.” Their 2006 debut established their Brit-pop sound, but that was just a springboard. The Car drives in a very different direction—orchestral, almost theatrical, less about the destination, more about the ride.

Art reflects life. For the Arctic Monkeys, that has meant physical moves—from England to the United States and back again—and side projects such as orchestral-driven The Last Shadow Puppets, which helped evolve front man Alex Turner. On The Car, Turner croons like the leader of a lounge act. On “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” he sings despondently, dreamily, like he’s in a scene from a romantic film with a sad ending. The chorus repeats, “So if you wanna walk me to the car / You oughta know I’ll have a heavy heart / So can we please be absolutely sure / That there’s a mirrorball?” The metaphorical disco ball reflects light, but everything beyond that is murky. Such are Turner’s lyrics.

The ’70s soul-twinged “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” is an apt chaser. Like in the sparkling mirrorball, nothing is quite as it appears: “It’s the intermission / Let’s shake a few hands / Blank expressions invite me to suspect / I ain’t quite where I think I am.” The album’s title track keeps Turner—the debonair troubadour—moving, though in what direction is anyone’s guess: “But it ain’t a holiday until / They force you to make a wish / They say ‘climb up this’ / And ‘jump off that’ / And you pretend to fall asleep on the way back.”

The Car shows the continuing maturation of one of modern British rock’s most influential bands, one that refuses to be categorized. Although it often feels indirect, this ride is smooth and polished.


This article also appears in the February 2023 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 88, No. 2, page 38). Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Raph_PH (CC BY-2.0)