Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Review)

Sagacious lyrics. Serene melodies. Provocative ideas. After a five-year hiatus the Arctic Monkeys return with their sixth album and they’re better than ever. The slick haircut and leather jacket of 2013 is easily forgotten with the suave transformation into this new era. The leather jacket has been ditched for big-collared shirts of the 70s. The Fender Stratocaster Guitar has been replaced by the Steinway Vertegrand Piano. The songs of love, heartbreak and lust have been ditched to make way for space hotels, tales of aspiration and science-fiction.

The idea of a film being recorded to describe the workings of a film is a strange concept which Turner explores in the opening track. Star Treatment breaks the fourth wall with reference to song writing and the band’s earlier aspirations. “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes” claims the lead singer in the opening lyric of the album. The vocals lead us to ponder the genre. Is this a spoken-word, psychedelic rock or indie/alternative album? In its entirety, the genre would prove difficult to pinpoint.

Fans of AM (2013) will have hoped that the entire record wouldn’t consist in tracks like its opener. The introduction of the second track however, shoots this hope down just like the group have shot down the Sheffield teenager facade. The sharp piano melodies and the monotonous voice paints a picture of a 70s easy-listening band. Almost alien to the High Green boys who roared When the Sun goes down.

American Sports shifts the album in terms of its tempo and semantic field. The synth riff opens the track into a somewhat electronic and eery field, matched nicely with the introduction of space and science. Turner has managed to intertwine the scientific side to his works with that of love with high success.

“And I never thought, not in a million years, that I’d meet so many lovers”

The title track cements the end of the AM era with the arrival of a higher tone of vocals and an even more diverse range of lyrics. The satirical lyrics are somewhat lost on the listener due to the gorgeous atmosphere the track creates. “Kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob” seems incredibly apt for this album and encapsulates the album as a whole. Odd lyrics and serious atmospheres.

Golden Trunks seems to be the only track which has the ability to be able to disguise itself as a track on another Arctic Monkeys album. The opening guitar riff is memorable and somewhat reminiscent of 2013’s AM. Still, it doesn’t seem misplaced on this record due to its socially aware lyrics of a “leader of the free world”. Open to interpretation, make of it what you will.

The first single to be released from the album is arguably its best. Four out of Five’s bass-line is one comparable to Old Yellow Bricks with regard to its iconic nature. The iconic nature being linked to recent live performances of the song, in which Turner handles the synthesizer like a heterosexual Freddie Mercury, oozing sophistication rather than sex. O’Malley plays the bass with a swagger somewhat similar to the stage presence in earlier years, but still with the civilised, mature feel of the new Arctic Monkeys era.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking song title since Don’t sit down ‘cause I moved your Chair, The World’s first ever Monster Truck Front Flip suggests a social condemning of the exaggerated use of social media and the internet. Without referencing it directly, the social comments on the effects of the internet and the media are definitely there, no matter how the lyrics are interpreted.

In the eighth track, Turner explores science fiction and the ideology around it. Science Fiction encapsulates the concept of using foreign worlds, universes and societies to make comments on that of our own. Take the struggle between the left-wing, liberal Rebellion and the Galactic Empire of Darth Vader for example. The provocative lyrics are accompanied by an eery piano melody which could easily be heard in a horror, be it Scooby-Doo or a 1930s adaptation of Dracula. Lyrically this song is a contender for best on the record.

She looks like Fun has a Clockwork Orange feel to it. Some lines seem to be uttered straight from the mouth of Alex or his droogs. References to the works of Stanley Kubrick can be seen in the video for Four out of Five as well as Turner’s t-shirt in the inside sleeve of the record’s vinyl release. The works of this acclaimed director has most definitely influenced the transition from chiselled rockers into sophisticated, bearded pianists.

Batphone’s composition of inconsistent drums and repetitive piano melodies has the ability to send the listener back into the jazz era of early 20th century Britain. Perhaps one of the more forgettable tracks of the album, it leads the listener perfectly into the last song on the record.

The Ultracheese begs the question of whether it is a reference to the “ultra violence” seen in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. Despite the link to a rather violent and disturbing piece of cinema, the atmosphere the song creates ends the album on a positive yet melancholy note. Alex Turner’s strong vocal abilities prevail in the last track of the record with a clever mixture of baritone and higher voiced lyrics. It leaves the listener with a sense of feeling content, as well as a sense of pride. A sense of pride in the journey that the Arctic Monkeys have endured, of which they’ve released six albums. Six albums completely unique and different in their own ways, which just seem to improve every time. It seems the Arctic Monkeys are getting stronger with every record, and at this stage – no one can compete.