Album Review: Artic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
Words by Jacqui Picone
There were no singles, no chance of a leak, next to no live performances. No one knew what to expect. The only hint we had was Alex Turner’s beard and the unrestrained joy apparent as he toured The Last Shadow Puppets’ second record with bandmate Miles Kane. Friday rolled around and I sat in my car in the rain outside the house I babysit at and with shaky hands, and finally hit play on Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. Just like I did in 2013, I felt overwhelmed with the sense that my perception of music was about to change once more.
This record has a depth rarely seen in music lately, as the landscape changes to favour a format of singles over a curated album. It is no wonder there was no single release. This album is a homogenous piece, no part can work without the other. They intertwine and make love to each other over soft, deliberate notes. It’s important to note that the simplistic musicality in this record does not equate to boredom, it’s carefully considered instrumentation oozes theatricality on ‘Four Out Of Five’
You can make arguments for this record being arrogant or self indulgent, or even “they don’t make them like they used to!” but gone are the days of a spotty, floppy haired Alex Turner singing soliloquies of nightclub romances. It would be lazy and feel disingenuous if they were still making songs about Sheffield (they’re based in LA), or teenage angst (Turner is 32). Instead Turner takes the same concepts and adapts for his new aesthetic, purring half baked lullabies of love over ‘The Ultracheese’. There’s still glimpses of Turner in the lyrics, like shades of rainbow in a broken mirror, hiding vulnerability behind dismissiveness.
AM was a once in a lifetime record, it’s one of my favourite albums of all time but it would not only probably fall short, but be highly unusual to make AM ‘part 2’. One of the defining characteristics of the Arctic Monkeys is their ability to change tone, styles and lyrical work with each record. They are musical chameleons, blending easily into any style they choose like they’ve been there all along. Without shrieking guitars and thumping drums, Alex Turner’s voice is allowed to shine in a way we haven’t seen since Suck It And See. It’s Bowie in Berlin, it’s Pulp at their best. It is the Arctic Monkeys changing their tune all over again.
I feel like I can not do this record justice in a single review. It needs infinite listens, with infinite environments and moods. It needs to be listened to in heartbreak, and in love. In joy and sadness. Anger and laughter. Because Arctic Monkeys make albums that are never one particular thing, they are a constantly moving, shifting entity that means one thing to you today, and another tomorrow.
Whenever people ask who my favourite band is I dance around the question because a part of me thinks that saying Arctic Monkeys is boring, or not cool. I write about music, surely I should have a more interesting answer right? Albums like this though remind me that there’s nothing boring, or uncool about Arctic Monkeys. They’re creative giants, constantly evolving and reimagining who they are as artists. There’s no way to track their patterns or predict what they’re going to do next, and with Alex Turner at the helm I don’t think we will ever find one. They’re the last remnants of the early 2000s indie rebirth and have slid easily into each phase of their discography like they’d been there all along. Arctic Monkeys are my favourite band, and this album is absolutely amazing.