English rock band Arctic Monkeys returns to the spotlight with a heavily orchestrated yet intimate reflection on love and disillusionment with their latest album, “The Car.” Released on Oct. 21, the seventh studio album takes listeners on a cinematic journey through frontman Alex Turner’s mind with lavish production, matured songwriting and billowy vocals.
The sophistication of symphonious instrumentation suits the Arctic Monkeys, who rose to fame with the ferocity of electric guitars and busy bass drums. The tongue-in-cheek dexterity of their earlier songwriting phased out to make room for more poetic and contemplative imagery on albums like “AM” and “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.” Written by Turner and produced by James Ford, “The Car” elevates the band’s trek toward refinement even more.
The intro track, “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” is a jazzy dive into the end of a relationship that was always doomed to fail. Turner croons “Don’t get emotional, that ain’t like you / Yesterday’s still leaking through the roof” over a bed of wistful strings. With such elegance, the Arctic Monkeys invite listeners to sit back and melt into the music.
“I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” has a smooth texture of strings that lead into a forceful chorus, letting listeners learn that Turner feels jaded with the party scene around him. For being a celebrity, it’s admirable how incredibly self-aware Turner is. This disillusioned feeling continues on other tracks of the album.
The third track, “Sculptures of Anything Goes,” takes on the perspective of a critic, as Turner speaks on the backlash the band received after the release of their last album, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.” Fans disliked the band’s decision to move away from the garage rock they catapulted to fame with, and Turner acknowledges this sentiment beautifully, with the help of a haunting synth.
“Body Paint,” released as a single on Sept. 29, is a delicate yet fervent admission that Turner knows his lover is having an affair. His simple lyrics are an artful manifestation of anger. When he sings, “There’s still a trace of body paint / On your legs and on your arms and on your face,” Turner notes that an affair leaves its mark long after it’s ended. The use of an electric guitar on the outro of the track feels reminiscent of the band’s older sound, signaling the Arctic Monkeys are still a rock band despite their musical evolution.
The title track focuses on Turner’s nostalgia. In an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Turner said the car — an old E90 Toyota Corolla pictured on the album cover — reminds him of childhood memories in cars. The slow and somber track captures the memory of childhood with simple lyrics. A crescendo of violin strings accompanied by the slain of an electric guitar strengthen an otherwise lackluster track on an overall profound album.
“Big Ideas” and “Hello You” touch more on the disillusionment Turner feels with fame. As he reflects on his career, he notes that he is not the same person he was when the band grew successful. Haunting strings swirl around a hypnotic chord progression in the outro of “Big Ideas,” leaving listeners in a melancholic haze.
The album comes to a close with “Perfect Sense.” Through sublime arrangements and morose lyrics, Turner entertains the idea that the Arctic Monkeys can only maintain its current level of fame and reverence for so long. This is expressed when he sings, “Keep reminding me that it ain’t a race / When my invincible streak turns onto the final straight.”
On “The Car,” the Arctic Monkeys build on the sonic elements of their last album to amplify their sound with vivid textures and honeyed soul. While still rock and roll, the Arctic Monkeys abandon an older sound to deconstruct their debonair facade and show listeners evolution is key.