Tumblr aficionados rejoice, everyone else beware: The early 2010s are back. The bountiful recent album releases, from The 1975’s Being Funny in a Foreign Language to Carly Rae Jepsen's The Loneliest Time has been a nostalgic reckoning for OG fans, introducing new fans to the indie sleaze glory that was 2013. Arctic Monkeys joined the rankings with the release of The Car, their seventh studio album, on Oct. 21, 2022. But don’t expect AM, though many fans wistfully do. The band is maturing, and the album is self–aware of that fact.

The Car reflects the band’s age. Formed two decades ago, the band has gone through changes. Frontman Alex Turner is no longer the 20–year–old from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. He is not the 27–year–old of AM singing “Knee Socks.” Turner is now 36, taking the mellowing sound of the band with him. He’s settling down–maybe not with a wife and kids, but honing into the orchestral jazz genre. 

Hardcore AM fans were disappointed by the band’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which starkly contrasts their indie rock hit album, to the funkier, lounge music that is characteristic of their new sound. The Car follows on this trajectory, but strays from the sci–fi, otherworldly aspect of its predecessor. It is grounded and explicit, in terms of references to the band and their fans. It is nostalgic and still maintains the pining lover trope similar to past albums.

The album starts strong with “There’d Better Be a Mirrorball,” the lead single. The metaphor of a car is stocked throughout the album, starting here. Turner bittersweetly croons “So if you wanna walk me to the car / You oughta know I'll have a heavy heart.” Going to the car signifies the breaking point. Turner ends the song with a bang, singing “So can we please be absolutely sure / That there's a mirrorball?” Both sides know it’s the end, and it’s the right thing to do. Yet Turner suggests, “I'd throw the rose tint back on the exploded view,” a last ditch attempt to return to the honeymoon phase and ignore the problems that have gotten them to this point.

I Ain’t Quite Where I Think I Am” is groovy and theatrical, but Turner is bored at the party of boring rich people. He sings, “It's the intermission / Let's shake a few hands / Blank expressions invite me to suspect / I ain't quite where I think I am.” But hey, at least he’s on a yacht at the Riviera, the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France! Us listeners are right there with him, in a lush listening experience. 

Turner writes of relationship troubles again in “Jet Skis On the Moat.” Turner begs a significant other to talk in a stalemate conversation, “Is there somethin' on your mind / Or are you just happy to sit there and watch while the paint job dries?,” bringing the car metaphor to life once again. In “Body Paint,” Turner learns of his lover’s affair, “I'm watching your every move / I feel the tears are coming on.” The traces of the affair are all over, and Turner grieves his once loving relationship. 

As the album progresses, Turner gains consciousness with unambiguous lyrics. In “Sculptures of Anything Goes,” Turner sings directly to the public who probably won’t give the album a chance. Turner sings, “Puncturing your bubble of relatability / With your horrible new sound.” The new sound, which to fans, seems like a blunt change from their fifth studio album AM to their sixth Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. While the evolution of their sound was not as apparent, there was a five year difference between albums, so change shouldn't be surprising. The band revisits these sentiments in “Big Ideas.” Turner sings, “I've conjured up wonderful things / The ballad of what could've been / Over and out / It's been a thrill.” In this song, Turner seems to be singing more to himself rather than the audience. He realizes, “But now, the orchestra's got us all surrounded,” quite literally, instead of the classic electric guitars of his past, and he “cannot for the life of [himself] remember how they go.” If listeners are nostalgic for the past, Arctic Monkeys is too. 

The Car can almost serve as a goodbye album, a final bow, if they so please. But not a departure to the band, but what the band once was. The band remembers their glory days and reflects on the entirety of their career. “Hello You” combines both these aspects, “There's just enough time left to swing by / And re-address the start / If you call and have them pull around the car / And stop specializing in stories from the road.” Turner muses more on his time in the limelight, and the exiting of his old sound. “Perfect Sensedevelops these feelings, “If that's what it takes to say goodnight / Then that's what it takes / Sometimes, I wrap my head around it all / And it makes perfect sense.” While themes can be repetitive, especially towards the end of the album, the lyrics are rich with inventiveness. The band proves that this album is, for them, as well, a contemplative look on their career, but not in a brooding way, just in recognition. 

In the recent release Midnights, Taylor Swift returns to old eras. Her discography, as some artists do, goes back and forth with genres. But Arctic Monkeys are not the same. The band shows that, without a doubt, they will not be devolving their sound, and AM fans have to cope.