Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is brilliant, despite what you may have heard.
The dust has settled, the haters have hated and everything has gone quiet at the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino.
The long-awaited follow up to 2013’s AM broke the internet when it appeared and social media was full of disappointed fans, put off by the change of pace, genre, and style presented in the new Arctic Monkeys’ album.
On first listen, I was left scratching my head, underwhelmed and yearning for more riffs, anthemic choruses and driving drum beats that have characterised my beloved Arctic Monkeys over their first five albums.
I love their first album, second album, third album, fourth album and fifth album as much as anybody and have always identified with the fast drums of Matt Helders, beefy riffs of Jamie Cook, funky bass lines of Nick O’Malley and descriptions of hanging out in shitty clubs and towns in Alex Turner’s Yorkshire slur.
For the latter, I probably identified as I grew up going to the same shitty clubs in Sheffield as they did.
It is somewhat a shame that this (probable) concept album talks more about being on the moon (can’t relate to that) and has lost some of the identifying features of albums prior to this offering.
With each album, this band has always progressed their sound so should it have been such a surprise?
I have been guilty of judging album’s too quickly in the past so I have left this one a few weeks and more than a few listens before sharing my opinion.
Tranquility Base holds a new and unique sound, it will fill a hole in times I want to listen to something new or like… this.
I have read opinions which refer to this album as elevator music. Show me those elevators playing something this complex and I will ride up and down the worlds tallest buildings in them. What elevators even play music anyway?!
There are obvious comparisons to The Last Shadow Puppets (Turner’s side project), David Bowie (especially on the title track) and Nick Cave but I want to write about some other elements I have found here.
I love this album more with every listen, discovering something new each time. To anybody reading, please try to get through the first few listens and persist with it, you will thank me.
Riff-heavy it isn’t, cool it is. In my opinion, this is the sexiest piece of music to emerge from the Steel City since Jarvis Cocker sang to us about underwear.
In ‘American Sports’ Turner’s sounds similar to that of the Pulp front-man, his voice carrying the Sheffield twang he’s so many times been accused of abandoning.
Interestingly, now both infamous Sheffield front-men have released piano-led albums — Cocker teamed up with Chilly Gonzalez on 2017’s Room 29 — although Tranquility Base does have more layers, I imagine Turner’s head was turned by Room 29 during the writing of this album.
‘Golden Trunks’ does tease with a riff before heading in a new direction entirely, harnessing Queen-style harmonies while the whole song encompasses a dark vibe. Both vocal and instrumental breakdowns make me remember villainous songs from classic Disney cartoons.
Interestingly, there were no singles released prior to the album. At the time I thought this was a marketing technique, used to build suspense before the release. Having now heard it, the lack of a prior single makes complete sense as there are no real ‘singles’ here.
There are some standout songs on the album, ‘One Point Perspective’, ‘Star Treatment’ and the first to have an accompanying music video, ‘Four out of Five’ included.
‘The Worlds First Ever Monster Truck Frontflip’ feels very David Bowie with the tempo often changing. Like gothic lounge music for the new age, when it isn’t sounding like Bowie, it sounds like Nick Cage, a known influencer on the band, a cover of his is included in their second album (Red Right Hand).
‘She Looks Like Fun’ comes across as if Nick Cage was producing the Rocky Horror Picture Show also offering a classic bit of Turner’s lyrical humor as he croons“there is no limit to the length of a dickhead”.
On ‘The Ultracheese’ you can hear 60’s rock n roll vocal wobbles brought into the 21st century with a new air of cool. ‘The Ultracheese’ is just one of a few songs that play with you on this album. Throwing total disregard to the classic AABA song structure with the song building up to what would be a perfect album-ending chorus before falling silent and getting replaced with a bit of subtle yet catchy guitar.
A prime example of this album’s middle finger to popular music lies in the ‘chorus’ on ‘Science Fiction’. The ‘chorus’ is not a vocal one but instead a catchy piece of piano play.
The album serves many purposes, subtle enough to be background music but interesting and deep enough for an intent listening experience.
I cannot wait to keep on listening to this album and in the process of doing so, peeling back the layers and falling further in love with it.
French film director Jean-Luc Godard once said “it’s not where you take things from, its where you to take them to” and it seems that the boys from Sheffield took all of their influences and put them firmly on the moon.