The 50 best albums of 2022: No 6 – Arctic Monkeys: The Car
The Sheffield quartet’s elegant, lounge-funk-inflected seventh album was an introspective, elliptical ode to a time that may only live in the mind of its frontman
Late theorist and writer Mark Fisher didn’t especially like Arctic Monkeys. He considered the Sheffield band an example of how so much “new” art in the 21st century is rooted in nostalgia. “Arctic Monkeys airbrush cultural time out and appeal to this endless return and timelessness of rock,” he said to Crack magazine in 2014. It’s undeniable that part of the band’s success across two decades – from Myspace-propelled teens, to bona fide rock stars, to cosmic piano crooners in space – has relied on this innate sense of timelessness. But it’s hard not to wonder what Fisher would have thought listening to The Car, the group’s refined, lounge-y, cinematic, orchestral seventh album. Nodding to Bowie, the Beatles and bossa nova, it seems in its own way to be contemplating time.
In an interview with NME, frontman Alex Turner said of The Car: “So much of this new music is scratching at the past and how much of it I should hang on to.” It makes sense: Arctic Monkeys’ best music has always been about yearning in all its forms; here, this is manifest in Turner’s unmistakable, swooning vocals, brimming with intimacy and lyrical longing, and instrumentals that make moods of love, lust, grief, insecurity and dislocation flutter somewhere deep within. The Car delves into depths and subtleties of feeling with gilded music that belongs to a past which never existed: velveteen strings, gleaming keys and licks of guitar that veer from funky to blazing and anticipatory.