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Arctic Monkeys: The Car review – oblique reflections in the rearview

The arch Sheffield quartet are contemplative, cryptic but still occasionally anthemic on an album of goodbyes laced with crooner soul and loungey funk

From the gleaming tailfins of 50s rock’n’roll through Bruce Springsteen and beyond, cars are one of the most well-travelled tropes in rock. Mostly, they equate with the freedom of the open road, with status and flash, with outrunning the law. Or they provide a place to have it off.

Arctic Monkeys’ elegant seventh album, The Car, deals in none of that. From the cover art – an aerial view of a lone car in a vacant lot, shot by drummer Matt Helders – to brief mentions in frontman Alex Turner’s lyrics, this is an album about a getaway vehicle shorn of glamour. The cover photo implies surveillance, a spy theme that ties in with other mentions of covert activity on The Car – there’s someone sweeping an apartment “for bugs” in the title track (although that could just be a reference to unsanitary holiday accommodation – it’s hard to tell). Sculptures of Anything Goes reflects, among other things, on Turner’s move from Los Angeles back to the UK. “Village coffee mornings with not-long-since-retired spies /Now that’s my idea of a good time,” he winks.

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