It’s been twelve years since Arctic Monkeys’ groundbreaking debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. It’s been five since Alex Turner single-handedly saved rock and roll with the opening riff to ‘R U Mine?’, so where does newest album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino leave them?
If AM was a surfing at the Gold Coast, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is a lap of the Olympic pool. It’s not bad, however a bit safe considering the stadium rock it follows. There’s some synths that sound like they’re been lifted directly from Serge Gainsborough whilst the lyrics toe the line of Leonard Cohen. Looking at Turner’s inspo playlist it’s clear he’s been channelling something more European.
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino emanates confidence but not in the way previous Arctic Monkeys material has. There’s no bravado or hip swinging stadium rock to hide behind. There is however, a smirking 21st century troubadour who knows millions will be hanging on his every word.
The true test of time will be to see how this album holds up live. The vibe being so different to other Arctics material, one may fear seeing Turner switch between the different personalities required to deliver the material in proper fashion will be a performance in itself. Moreover it’ll be interesting will be seeing how Arctic Monkeys’ sparse soundscapes go down at festivals.
There’s been a shift in how Arctic Monkeys spend their time these days. They favour the studio over the stage, a complete 180 on how they were a decade ago. With this shift in mind there’s fears over how the new tracks will fare live, already clips on YouTube looking more like The Last Shadow Puppets than Arctic Monkeys.
Opener ‘Star Treatment’ is an interesting concoction of soft touches and pop culture references. Turner calls out at one point ‘who you gonna call?’ like a seductive ghostbuster. If it’s possible, this song is exactly what you’d expect based on early reviews and interviews preceding the album’s release. There’s more melody here than you’d typically see from the Arctic Monkeys which is part and parcel of the album being piano based.
The album runs through the theme of the Tranquility Hotel Base and Casino, which is set on the moon don’t you know. It’s a suitable backdrop and makes the album as a whole more coherent. It’s easy to imagine the songs as if they’re playing through the lobby of the hotel past midnight. There being no singles will be no mistake or hype campaign either. Each song blends so seamlessly into the next that you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s all one big song.
‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Flip’ is exactly as Arctic Monkeys™ as the title would suggest. Throughout this section of the album it’s as if Turner is telling a joker that we as the listener aren’t in on.
For fans of AM ‘Batphone’ is about as close to it as you’ll get. The lyrics that wouldn’t feel astray on ‘Number 1 Party Anthem’. Equally Father John Misty has already firmly claimed the self-aware rock star satire niche. Perhaps Turner shouldn’t dwell it, no matter how much he’ll smirk singing about his fragrance called ‘Integrity’.
Give Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino a listen right here. See for yourself if it lives up to the hype and let us know what you think.