Amos Murphy – 11/05/18
Much to the excitement of the music world, the Sheffield born ‘rock’ band Arctic Monkeys, released their sixth studio album this week, the bizarrely named ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. The eleven song tracklist is the band’s first release in almost five years, after the critically acclaimed ‘AM’ (released in 2013), achieved a three times platinum certification in the UK – it will be mightily surprising if their latest record reaches such heights.
Craving a ‘new sound’, Alex Turner – the Arctic Monkey’s front man – turned to the piano to create his band’s latest album; the result, a confusing medley of unfiltered and restless noise, which sounds like it belongs more as a soundtrack for a science-fiction blockbuster, rather than the indie-rock anthem of the summer – mediocracy swallows ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’.
Turner himself cited that he had taken influence from some of his ‘favourite tracks of all time’ when writing this album – it is difficult to pin point where the likes of Leonard Cohen have exerted their influence, as the first song off the record, ‘Star Treatment’, sounds more like a sampling of Alex’s favourite elevator music, rather than the late great Canadian singer-songwriter.
Questions should have probably started to have been asked when the album name and tracklist were released, revealing some of the strangest titles for songs ever seen; ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’ the standout candidate for the most unusual on the album. All could have been forgiven if that track was a ‘belter’. Unfortunately, it is an underwhelming one-hundred and twenty seconds of your life you will never get back.
Despite the monotony, lyrically ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is up there with some of the bands’ best work, evocative of Turner’s other musical venture, supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets – in an industry where so many records are ruined by lazy lyrics, it is refreshing to hear an album that has been worded with such carefulness and precision.
But, the Arctic Monkeys are renowned and adored by their fans for the hard-hitting, passionate and emotion stirring guitar riffs and basslines, which even if your chair has been moved, you just want to be up and dancing anyway. This is something which is noticeably absent from their latest release; it seems like Alex Turner has aimed more for Nobel Prize for literature, instead of an album which is in keeping with the groups’ iconic sound and image.
It is not surprising that such a mellow record has been released by the one-time baton carriers for British rock n’ roll; the Arctic Monkeys have come a long way – metaphorically and literally – since their first album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. The once spine tingling guitar shrieks of previous said albums now feel too distant to ever return to the Sheffield bands’ music.
The saturated feel to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is most evident in the track ‘She Looks Fun’, where Alex almost apologetically whispers ‘shite’, as if careful to not offend the bowtie and dinner dress wearing audience this record is clearly targeted towards. It is hard to imagine the group belting out one of their eternal classics, whilst trying to sandwich one of their latest releases in. It is an album which seems targeted to an audience of head boppers and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers, instead of a one content with being showered in warm piss whilst throwing themselves around a moshpit. The Arctic Monkeys have well and truly lost their identity.
For me, the defining moment of listening to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Hotel’ for the first time, was when the last song, ‘The Ultracheese’- one of the album’s more arousing tracks – was followed by the raw opening sounds of the bands’ 2007 single ‘Brianstorm’, and the first song off their second album, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’. The contrast between the music was painfully noticeable.
Now, it is clear that the band have wanted to try something different with their latest release, and for what they set out to achieve, it has probably worked. It just is not what everybody expected, or so desperately craved. ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is yet another stark example of how indie-rock groups have adopted a much more ‘mellow pop’ approach to their music, and whilst this album makes Blossoms’ recent second record, ‘Cool Like You’ sound like heavy-rock metal, it follows a similar pattern of mundanity which is becoming all too apparent in the industry.
This record will inevitably be a success for the band, they are far too big to fail. People will religiously listen purely because it’s the Arctic Monkeys, and the brain-numbing mundanity of the album will undoubtedly tap into a new global audience. But it is an unescapable fact that ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ sounds like something that should be played as background music to a romantic dinner for two, not enjoyed by the masses in the sticky-floored indie-rock nightclubs of London, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and beyond.