The long-awaited return of those indie rock archetypes Arctic Monkeys. Five years after 2013’s AM, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is the next chapter in their journey from dishevelled Sheffield boys of the noughties to slick and swaggering Americanised rock gang. Or, how Alex Turner went from scruffy to professional. Available on transparent vinyl LP, on Domino.
Staff note from Benn:
It's a grower at best.
3 reviews. Add your own review.
Internet outrage! Band makes album that doesn't sound like their other records. Damn them! Unfollow them! Get exceedingly angry at them because you know what? They owe us. They've given us hours of pleasure over 12 years and so they owe us more of the same. Imagine being '70's David Bowie in the age of Twitter? Actually don't.
So whereas everyone is perfectly happy with retread albums by reformed bands and by-numbers discs from the terminally bored then the band that moves forward gets the dogs abuse but you know what? You are wrong. I am not saying that 'Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino' is the best album of this year or that it's their 'Kid A' but it's very interesting indeed. I simply can't see the issues people seem to be having with it having no tunes. It's full of tune and melody they are just not as immediately obvious as looking good on the dancefloor or whatever. It's often intoxicating.. there's bits of Scott Walker, bits of Bowie, Beach Boys, Prefab Sprout (especially 'Jordan: the Comeback') Pulp maybe and yes Arctic Monkeys.
I stuck the album on this morning intent on laughing my way through it but once I started on the brilliant Lambchop meets Prefab Sprout 'Star Treatment' I only lost interest on the final overboard, schmaltzy 'The Ultracheese'. In between you get several unusual tracks that don't dispense with their guitar led sound completely but dial them down in lieu of pianos and 70's cosmic synths that provide a bedrock for a tour de force of lyrical dexterity from Alex Turner. This more stretched out freeform sound gives him carte blanch to go off on all kinds of tangents - many which are hard to grasp on first few listens - just certain lines shine through, other words obscured in a way that you want to go back and hear more to find out where he's actually going with it.
I'm on today's third listen of the record and I still can't wholly figure it out but I know one thing and that's I like it a lot.
Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?
Those are the words that preceded the world’s introduction to one of Sheffield’s great institutions. 12 years ago, the band were just a bunch of scrappy teens. And now? Who the fuck are these guys?
The band are almost completely unrecognisable from those early moments, something that hasn’t sat well with everyone in our office. And it’s understandable. They had so much promise! They were going to save guitar music! They were going to save Britain!! But what was remarkable about that first album were things that make it impossible now. The band have long given up on the People's Republic of South Yorkshire for whatever the hell Los Angeles is meant to be. And you must remember, they are also incredibly rich. So they could’ve rested on their laurels, become Sheffield’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, Alex Turner singing about lives he no longer shares. Bruce however, never really left New Jersey.
Instead we have this, the curiously named ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’, which draws from Bowie, The Beatles, and The White Stripes. Almost immediately that title makes sense. Where ‘Whatever People..’ was confrontational and aggressive, there’s a peculiar mellowness to this album. I can imagine them, resplendent in tailored suits, playing in the lobby of one of those uncanny hotels that line the Las Vegas strip, their searing guitars replaced by keys beating out a 4/4 rhythm. Rather than the startling immediacy of their past best, this album is much more interesting in sustaining its mood. There aren’t any obvious hooks here, but the smell of cheap cigars is so palpable every time Turner approaches the mic I feel like gagging. That the record is beautifully produced, everything mixed into its mysterious ambience, helps complete the picture.
You don’t need the band in the hotel lobby to be constantly clawing at your attention. You just want them to set the scene. And though their social commentary isn’t as overt as it has been, the wallpaper at the Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino has been peeling for years.
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