Review: Arctic Monkeys’ “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

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Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Release date: May 11, 2018
Label: Domino
Genre: Lounge Music / Glam Rock / Psychedelic Pop
Producer: James Ford, Alex Turner

Rating: 8/10

Five years after the global success of “AM”, the Arctic Monkeys are back with their sixth studio album, and a completely new sound. You won’t be hearing nearly as many fuzz-filled guitar riffs and upbeat tunes that made “AM” so popular. Instead, on “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”, the Arctic Monkeys slow things down to easy listening lounge music with a psychedelic, retro-futurist flair.

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” centers around the concept of a futuristic moon colony, with songs played by a fictional band that works in the hotel lounge. Alex Turner’s lyrics bring imagination, social commentary, unreliable perspectives, witty satire, and a charm and bravado that only he could pull off. His ability to weave together non-sequitur, narrative, and vivid imagery, and to do so with a sense of humor and wit, is what makes this album stand out in a big way.

While their previous album was full of songs that could all have been used as singles, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” had no pre-release singles attached to it. This could be because there isn’t a single song on the album fit for casual consumption. When listening to the album the whole way through, however, there are a few that stand out more than the rest.

“Star Treatment”

The album opens with “Star Treatment”, a spacey, slow number reminiscent of David Bowie. Turner’s lyrics are sung in the first-person, but fluctuate between abstract imagery and narrative, drifting from association to association. He recalls a time when he “just wanted to be one of the Strokes”, before later referencing a version of himself in the past with a “karate bandana”, “warp speed chic”, and “hair down to there”.

Turner also croons poignant lines like, “Everybody’s on a barge / Floating down the endless stream of great TV / 1984, 2019”. With his loose, lyrical style, he’s able to bring attention to the issues that occupy his mind, without hitting us over the head with them.

“Four Out Of Five”

“Four Out Of Five” comes in about halfway through the album. This is the closest track that comes to sounding like the fuzzy, guitar-driven “AM”. Even so, it stands apart by exploring new sonic territory for the band. Thematically, the song alludes to gentrification and the allure of good advertising.

“All the nights that never happened / And the days that don’t exist”, “Only time that we stop laughing / Is to breathe or steal a kiss”.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” isn’t the Arctic Monkeys you’d expect. Their ability to adopt different sounds in their previous albums always carried their signature, guitar-heavy style. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is a different beast entirely. Guitars are, for the most part, replaced with harpsichords, vintage keyboards, and spacey synths.

This is a big left turn for a band that seems to be maturing and changing. Turner’s fragmented lyrics reflect the state of our modern, fragmented psyches. He hits our preoccupation with entertainment, the fluidity of truth in the fake news era, and technological ennui.

It may take a few listens to get used to the new sound, but give it a little time, and this is an album that’s sure to grow on you.

Track List

  1. “Star Treatment.”
  2. “One Point Perspective.”
  3. “American Sports.”
  4. “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.”
  5. “Golden Trunks.”
  6. “Four Out Of Five.”
  7. “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip.”
  8. “Science Fiction.”
  9. “She Looks Like Fun.”
  10. “Batphone.”
  11. “The Ultracheese.”

You can pick up the vinyl of “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” at the LemonWire store here.

 

 

 

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