Review | The Arctic Monkeys’ ‘The Car’ was worth the four-year wait

The new album showcases the four-member band’s musical skill by diversifying their sound and lyrics.


Photo of Eleanor Hildebrandt.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, Managing Editor

After four years of waiting for a new album, English rock band Arctic Monkeys reminded fans of how great 21st-century rock can be with their Oct. 21 release of “The Car.”

Friday’s 10 new songs follow 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which received praise for its examination of deeper topics and world issues. The songs on both albums were written in totality by front man Alex Turner. 

The overall sound encapsulated by the new album is big and theatrical, leaning into loud piano and string features throughout several songs. The opener alone proves the band is ready for a change with a new sound that you’d expect to hear during the turning point of a movie or theater production.

“The Car” exhibits the strength and diversity of Turner’s vocals too from the opening lyrics of “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball” with him encapsulating a deep, steady register. He prepares listeners for a larger themed album with softer tones and less heavy bass lines than in the band’s late 2000s and early 2010s releases. 

The Arctic Monkeys’ ability to change sound and diversify the rock genre has kept fans on their toes for years, and “The Car continues that. The songs shift to more of a 1970s sound, embracing raspier vocals from Turner in “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” and jazz tones in “Jet Skis On The Moat.” 

A clear turn in the album occurs when piano melodies take over at the end of “Body Paint,” which was released with “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball” in September. The two singles from the album present the two tones of the art as a whole, one more reminiscent of 2013’s “AM.”

“Body Paint” also showcases Turner’s grand, harmonic tones. 

The other song on the album that throws listeners back to classics like “Do I Wanna Know?” and “One For The Road” from “AM” is “Hello You.” The eighth song on “The Car” has similar guitar progressions as the two songs but plays more into stringed instruments than the bass-focused 2013 Arctic Monkeys’ album. 

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The album ends softly with a continuation of heavy piano, melodies, and guitar chords. The use of symbols illustrates “Mr Schwartz” and “Perfect Sense,” allowing the rock group to keep the drum tones they’re known for. 

The ominous lyrics and musical sound match the photo of the album: a single car sitting at the top of a parking garage. The album ends with a similar feeling of emptiness after walking through songs with Turner and his bandmates Matt Helders, Jamie Cook, and Nick O’Malley that tell daunting stories about breakups and longing. 

The album may not be as weighty as the others, easing up on the signature heavy drums and base of previous Arctic Monkeys’ work, but it dives into a more nuanced sound than the band has before. 

After years of only releasing live versions of songs in 2020, the Arctic Monkeys placed themselves as a top band once again with their newest no-skip album, proving they need no introduction and their experimentation with the softer tones of rock and roll paid off.