Five years after the career-defining AM and what’s felt like a long, long time of waiting, Arctic Monkeys are back. Alex Turner and co return with their sixth studio album and arguably their most creative and ambitious yet, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Let’s just throw in some real talk right here – this is also their most divisive record yet, and could cause a stir or five amongst the AM faithful.
The context surrounding the record cut a pretty clear picture that this was going to be a huge step in another direction for the band, and after hearing (and enjoying) the sounds of The Last Shadow Puppets’ Everything You’ve Come To Expect it was clear that Alex Turner was heading into a more existential phase, and well, that goatee happened. As we have learned to expect, the sound of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is completely different from the guitar-lead behemoths that made up a lot of past records, but at least Humbug has a neighbour now.
Opening track ‘Star Treatment’ introduces this new sound to the world with a dazzling display of piano-led instrumentation with minimal drums and more of an accompanying role for guitars this time. It’s filled with wondrous basslines, and of course, Alex Turner’s crooning takes centre stage. All sorts of crooning that seem a lifetime away from the opinionated teenager with a thick Sheffield accent. It’s interesting, and does kick things off in a good way.
The likes of ‘One Point Perspective’ and ‘Golden Trunks’ showcases one constant trait that has survived the change in sound – the band’s wit. The lyrics throughout these tracks as well as a majority of the record are filled with the occasional one liner or quick quip that does add a touch of reality to the mix, which is needed in a record that so often stares at the stars. There’s also a guitar solo in ‘One Point Perspective’ that’s freaking sweet too.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a good album but one I feel has alienated a lot of the fanbase. It’s a sharp change in direction for Arctic Monkeys and while change isn’t a bad thing, especially in music, I feel it’s one that’s been too sharp and cut out a lot of traits that made their sound so recognisable. There’s a whole lot of Alex Turner on this record but not a lot of the other band members, and more of a collaborative effort would’ve helped bridge the gap between the band’s old sound and this new, piano-led sound. Plus, having titles such as ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’ absolutely warrants an epic guitar riff or two, surely?