On Edge: Anticipating Arctic Monkeys’ ‘The Car’


Since its announcement in August, indie rock legends Arctic Monkeys have been teasing excited fans with single releases and *interesting* festival appearances in the run-up to their latest album, The Car. The big day is coming on the 21st of October, so make sure your listening devices are fully charged and you practice your infamous ‘Northern Elvis’ Alex Turner accent. 

Arctic Monkeys first entered our cultural consciousness in 2006 as four charmingly ordinary Yorkshire cuties. Their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not made history, selling 363,753 copies in just the first week! This album featured the career-making singles I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor and When The Sun Goes Down. I was listening to Hannah Montana and High School Musical at this age, but WPSIA, TWIN has become one of my favourite albums for the nostalgic image it provokes of growing up in a busy city and falling in love with the crazy events of urban life. 

The band’s fifth studio album AM was one of the most accessible of their discography, spanning many different genres and producing some of their best guitar riffs, but after 11 years, the band took a different direction by incorporating more piano-based psychedelic pop with the 2018 sci-fi-esque, Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, a concept album about a facility based on the site of Neil Armstrong’s famous moon landing. Turner went from singing about police Riot Vans to monogrammed suitcases; this truly was the gentrified version of Arctic Monkeys, signalling a more LA-influenced sound, 5,309 miles from their roots. Although the album polarised listeners who were used to a more pop-rock sound by now, critics generally praised TBH&C, which was nominated for the 2018 Mercury Prize and Best Alternative Music Album at The Grammys, showing that their legacy has clearly consolidated them as rock stars whose careers won’t suffer in the slightest if they produce something ‘bad’, in fact, it’s impossible for them to fail after so many successful years. So the question we’re all asking now is will The Car signify another shift in the band’s sound, or will we be back in indie-rock land (a.k.a Sheffield)? 

‘The Car’ album cover, Via British GQ

Back in August, Arctic Monkeys confirmed AM7 via Instagram, sharing the cover image taken by the band’s drummer, Matt Helders. If you’re interested, apparently the car in question is an E90 Toyota Corolla, parked at 7th Street, South Broadway, Los Angeles; only time will tell if this is another concept album, this time based on a 1980s car (probs not). So, what evidence have we collected as to Arctic Monkeys’ latest venture?  

The first song we heard from the album was I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am, first sung for the lucky patrons at Zurich Open Air Festival. Although this song hasn’t officially been released as a single, it’s pretty groovy live, sounding like something from Bowie or The Beatles. It’s definitely no AM, but still sounds more down-to-earth than TBH&C. I think funky would be the best descriptor. Next came There’d Better Be A Mirrorball, released as the lead single. The song starts with a dramatic string and piano-based instrumental, setting the rather downcast yet beautiful atmosphere. This hints that we’re still in the piano era for the band, but this is absolutely not a bad thing! Arctic Monkeys are definitely still heavily influenced by the 1970s music scene onwards, but Turner’s lyrics are still incredibly poetic and introspective. It’s shaping up to be a good album, but maybe not for everyone!

Arctic Monkeys have also been busy boys headlining festivals, you’ve probably heard about their Reading and Leeds performances. Never before have I been so jealous of people camping in muddy fields whilst their tents blow away, but once the horror stories of their set made its round on social media, I wasn’t so sure. Fans complained that the setlist was too exotic – they didn’t play all the hits. Perhaps this would be acceptable for one of their concerts, but performers surely must include their best-selling singles as not everyone in the audience would be a die-hard AM fan! Or perhaps Arctic Monkeys are too cool for their mainstream image now? The stage was set up like a 70’s brown and gold stage in a vintage gentlemen’s club, and there was little crowd interaction. They did however play 505, which seemed to get the most adoration after its resurgence as an audio on Tiktok. The band’s apathetic attitude is slightly worrying as they embark on a huge UK and Ireland tour next year, but I guess they can do whatever they like, after all, they are rock stars!

Alex Turner performing at Reading Festival, 2022, Via NME

Body Paint is their most recent release, perhaps the last before we get the full album. Arctic Monkeys gave this single its first TV appearance on Jimmy Fallon, where the band donned some gorgeous beige suits and Ray Bans; cool boys! Body Paint still relies heavily on the piano, in fact during the chorus guitarist Jamie Cook and bass player Nick O’Malley stay pretty stationary, awkwardly holding their instruments until they are lucky enough to play a chord. This is still however a fantastically classic rock tune which showcases Turner’s incredible vocal range we were unaware he had. 

The three singles we currently have from The Car are promising for fans. Although it’s unlikely we will get the old northern noughties monkeys back, we just have to accept the band have moved into a new era of classic rock and poetic lyrics which will make for a beautiful album, but perhaps another polarising one. My prediction is this: Arctic Monkeys fans will love it, alternative rock fans will hate it for the first few weeks but then start calling it the best example of how a successful band grows musically, pop AM fans will find it boring, music critics will lap it up and dish out all the awards to the band. As for me, I think it will be an album I’ll put on after a night out when I want to feel like a cool Parisian supermodel smoking on a balcony. So basically, it’s gonna be good. 

The Car will be released on Friday the 21st of October via Domino Records. You can listen to the lead single, There’d Better Be A Mirrorball here:


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