To say Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is a different Arctic Monkeys sound would be quite an understatement. Best known for their anthemic frantic guitar riffs, Arctic Monkeys returned to the stage in a dramatic fashion, swapping guitar riffs for velvet-like jazz infused rock n’ roll.
Arctic Monkeys released their highly anticipated sixth studio album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino after a nearly four year hiatus. Following the smashing success of AM and a worldwide tour, the band took some time off to pursue other projects, during which front-man Alex Turner put out another album with The Last Shadow Puppets. Recording for LP6 started in December of 2016 and the album was officially announced on April 5, 2018.
I am currently on my third listen through and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. After the first listen through I was somewhat taken aback. Nothing had really stood out to me, except maybe “Four out of Five.” Turner had mentioned that this album was going to be something fresh and nothing like past Arctic Monkeys. The earth-shaking guitar riffs were swapped with grand piano and an almost velvet-like jazz, and it took more than one listen to get used to.
The first lines of the album’s opening track, “Star Treatment” gives some insight into Turner’s mind: “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes / Now look at the mess you made me make.” The rest of the track has a very slow-jazz feel to it, with Turner’s voice dripping with smoothness; quite the departure from his frantic-rock fused vocals he is best known for like “R U Mine,” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.” The album’s title track takes us into this so called Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, with Turner introducing us to the location: “Good Afternoon / Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino / Mark Speaking / How may I direct your call?”
This album shows off Turner’s lyrical experimentation more than past albums. He wrote the majority of the album in his Los Angeles home studio named the “Lunar Surface” – named after the theory of the faked moon landing. In “Four out of Five,” Turner expands on the science-fiction theme of this hotel and casino, describing the “Lunar surface on a Saturday night / dressed up in silver and white / with coloured old grey whistle test lights.”
“Science Fiction,” is perhaps the best look into Turner’s goals for this album. “I want to make a simple point about peace and love / But in a sexy way where it’s not obvious /
Highlight dangers and send out hidden messages / The way some science fiction does.” In an interview with Billboard Turner said, “Once I started, it was hard to put the lid back on the science-fiction lexicon…Let’s go and write about another world in order to comment on this one.” The album’s final track, and arguably the oddest track name Turner has created so far, “The Ultracheese,” is the perfect conclusion to this space oddity of an album. In its entirety, the album creates an image of Alex Turner wearing a velvet suit playing the piano in a futuristic space hotel lobby.
This will definitely be a polarizing album. If you were looking for another album with guitar-fused bangers to mosh at a festival, this is not the album for you. Instead, Turner implores you to take a step forward with him, sit down in this space hotel lobby and listen to his new ideas. The album certainly grew on me with a few more listens. Admittedly I was looking for more jams like, “R U Mine,” “When The Sun Goes Down,” and “Teddy Picker,” but I completely understand where Turner is coming from. Its hard to spend five years on hiatus on come back and create the same music you did then. The album reflects Turner’s journey over the past few years, exploring new ideas and new music genius. There is no doubt that this is unapologetically, quintessential Arctic Monkeys.
Stream the album below: