The year is 2018, and the iconic Arctic Monkeys are finally back with a new album. On the first listen, the new album threw me into an utterly confused and celestial state, but I couldn’t help but find it fascinating. The album takes you to a world which is more striking and perplexing than the album name itself. Partly inspired by the site of the 1969 moon landings, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the band’s biggest departure yet, with the band embarking on a space expedition to a planet of Bowie, jazz, and sheer cosmic escapism. Apart from his Submarine soundtrack ventures, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino may be the most vivid representation of Alex Turner’s style, psyche and sound to date.
The album begins with “Star Treatment,” the kind of record you would expect to find on a psychedelic, lounge music compilation from the 60s. Or maybe in a detective film? The jazz sound and introduction of the piano melodies are apparent, and you start to wonder if you’re listening to Arctic Monkeys at all. With that said, I like it. This sound continues in “One Point Perspective,” which has some great strings and that unsettling piano riff. These two tracks certainly set an ideal tone for the rest of the album – a tone which involves you metaphorically throwing whatever you associate with the band out of the window, and then conversing with other-worldly forces. But then again, this isn’t entirely true. Considering AM, haven’t we been associating insightful innovation with the band for a while? Still though, it is relatively bizarre to say the least.
In terms of Alex Turner’s vocals, they are as experimental as they are excellent. You hear him hitting the high notes, as well as ones you would think were sung by someone entirely different. They even go to the extent of being unsettling and something out of a horror film, as heard in the album’s title track. However, we do still get to hear the iconic voice we warmly associate with the frontman, in tracks such as “American Sports,” “Four Out of Five,” “Science Fiction” and “The Ultracheese” (more on the last track later).
As different and bizarre as the album’s sound may be, it still contains some warm, nostalgic surprises for fans. Despite being considered as the least-indie rock record they’ve released, tracks such as “Golden Trunks” (which would fit well in AM with its guitar riffs), “Four Out of Five” (blending the aura of Suck It and See with a couple of Turner’s collaborative ventures), then to “Science Fiction and “Batphone” with their Humbug-esque vocals are reminiscent of the band’s earlier work. These tracks remind fans that Arctic Monkeys have not gone completely mental.
The album ends with its best and most beautiful track, “The Ultracheese.” Here, the brave piano endeavors work very well, and Turner’s vocals and heartfelt lyrics warmly take us back to numerous points in their discography. This semi-throwback works within the new musical backdrop of jazz and experimental lounge music. Therefore, the track is a wonderful mix of traits we associate with the ‘classic’ sound of Arctic Monkeys and the many avenues they have fearlessly taken since.
In sum, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is an album that is as divisive and alienating as it is insightful and fascinating. Arctic Monkeys have returned with a new, other-worldly sound which displays their bold evolution and desire for experimentation. In terms of Alex Turner himself, he has certainly come a long way. He has returned with a record where he could express himself in new, vibrant ways which will change the way we think of him as an artist and songwriter. For everyone going to see the band on tour, I’m jealous!
From Sophia with Love x