Seventh and highly anticipated studio album “The Car” from early 2000s darlings of indie rock the Arctic Monkeys takes its audience on a wandering, luxurious journey through their most theatrical and explorative sonic landscape to date.

After shocking their steadfast fanbase with the 2018 album release “Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino”, the Arctic Monkeys have made it clear they do as they please. The divisive record saw the band transition away from their, by then infamous, British indie rock style telling timeless stories of rowdy nightlife, failed romances and the daily life of the common man and delve into a glamorous and Great Gatsby-like world fuelled by abstract, intellectual lyricism and dystopian commentary from notorious front man Alex Turner.

On “The Car” this soundscape of elegance and opulence is continued in the continuously reoccurring soaring, string laden instrumentals but the stories that the band tells on this record feel more tangible and down to earth, beginning on the opening track “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball”. Artfully narrating the feelings of accepting the imminent end of a romantic relationship, Turner jokes in the lyrics that “there’d better be a Mirrorball” adding tongue-in-cheek to an otherwise melancholy storyline in classic Arctic Monkeys style.

Other gems of classic Turner lyricism are scattered frequently throughout “The Car”, such as on the sultry and seductive “Body Paint, one of the best tracks on the album, as Turner sings about the romantic object of his desire advising them to “do your time travelling through the tanning booth/so you don’t let the sun catch you crying”. Sounding almost like it could have been taken from the “AM” album with its rhythmic and sensuous guitar “Body Paint” fuses together some of the best elements of both the old and new Arctic Monkeys eras. The lyricism is as humorously surreal yet exquisitely metaphorical as ever. However, this time to its core “The Car” is an album that focuses on themes of romantic devotion, disillusionment and desire as well as celebrating and accepting the mysterious and peculiar aspects of human nature and circumstance.

Often on “The Car” there’s a sense of someone being lost or disoriented which comes across not only in the lyrics but in the instrumental structure of the tracks. Despite their grand and theatrical presentation, many of the songs seem to build up without reaching a satisfying end sounding like interrupted trains of thought or simply tailing off into nothingness. On the dark and foreboding “Sculptures Of Anything Goes” or on the tense, acoustic number “The Car” both songs seem destined to end in an explosion yet both fizzles out feeling almost unfinished. Other tracks such as the smooth soul inspired “Jet Skis On The Moat” end unexpectedly abruptly seeming hastily abandoned. The clear message of confusion and doubt appears on many of the tracks whether in the chaotic instrumentals of “I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” or the spacey and detached waltz “Big Ideas” which laments the fleeting nature of human pursuits. The incomplete nature of “The Car” is intentional and creates an enigmatic atmosphere.

The theatrical and dramatic elements of “The Car” are emphasised through the sometimes disturbed and ominous sound of tracks such as “Mr Schwartz”, which focuses on a powerful and cryptic fictional character who others are helpless in their dealings with. On “Sculptures Of Anything Goes” the dark and rumbling percussion creates an almost villainous atmosphere. Much of the songs seem to tell a fictional story, immersing the listener into a fantasy universe with many of the tracks such as the title track and the closing track “Perfect Sense” sounding straight out of film noir.

Still playing into themes of mystical grandeur but weaving together the obscure with the reality of human nature “The Car” is an album which emphasises how little we really understand and can control. It embraces darkness and euphoria and gets lost in itself, driving directionless through its stories and keeping the listener engaged with its mercurial and mystic nature.