Article by Andrés Alvarado
It’s finally here, LP number six. On Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, Mr. Alex Turner & company flip the perceived script of Arctic Monkeys existing as a guitar-driven tetrad. Indeed, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is the Sheffield foursome in brand-spanking new form. Cosmically driven keys lead the metamorphosis, Alex Turner’s delivery has attained a new height of seduction, his lyricism triumphantly cunning, the Arctic Monkeys have poked holes on all expectations.
Following up their critically acclaimed AM, the boys faced quite an uphill battle to climb. Instead, the quartet shifts gears and present themselves as the ever-changing musical chameleons they are. Inspired by that famous 1969 moon landing, starry therapeutic melodies flood the new record, those customary moody guitar riffs slightly watered down, a gamble of sorts in the collective minds of critics and fans alike. However; make no mistake, at this Hotel + Casino, the house always wins! Well played Mr. Turner, well played.
At the helm of Tranquility is “Four out of Five,” a lavishly soulful keys and bass-line driven tune that bridges best for those looking for a more AM-like segue. Croons Turner, “Cute new places keep on poppin’ up // Since the Exodus, it’s all gettin’ gentrified // I put a taqueria on the roof // It was well reviewed // Four stars outta five,” as he wryly, yet cleverly, mocks how social media has captured a special place in the pecking order of the self-worth and advertisement worlds.
As previously noted, Tranquility serves up a robust dose of serenity, but also plays out as an acid-trip of tunage. The chorus behind “She Looks Like Fun” best exemplifies this added element of the Monkeys’ genius, while the anthem mainframe reverts back to formula. Album namesake “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino” is a solid mesh of lazily jazzy strings in the background, a mesmerizing lounge-like organ essence handling the melody, and Turner’s finest falsetto at the forefront.
Mid-paced “American Sports” joins the core of strongest deliveries with its wickedly enticing backdrop loop, Turner’s spoken-word like vocals, and Matt Helder‘s delicate, yet firm, approach to drums. While, record kickoff duties are handled handsomely by open-collared-shirt and glass-of-scotch retro-fabulous “Star Treatment.” We find Alex paying homage to The Strokes‘ influence on the rock-star he’s become. In a sense, thank you, Julian Casablancas. Rounding out the best of Tranquility are the Sgt. Pepper-esque “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip,” and savagely-raw, heavy-riffed, and vintage Jaime Cook and Nick O’Malley showcasing, “Golden Trunks.”
There are a couple of hiccups that need addressing. Matt Helders’ tame usage on drums throughout should be considered a crime! Additionally, the lack of rock-n-roll thumpers may divisively sadden hardcore fans and weed-out those fringe ones that bandwagoned after AM‘s stadium-rock approach. Ultimately, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is obviously a steep u-turn from AM, and in all fairness, that has always been the Arctic Monkeys’ formula album to album; we just never saw this wide a turn before. However; six albums later and this far in, fans can confidently trust-fall onto Alex Turner’s vision, we think he’s earned it. Let his musical prowess both catch and guide you. Cheers!
Score: 8/10 — Key Tracks: “Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino,” “Four Out of Five,” “Golden Trunks,” “The Ultracheese,” and “One Point Perspective.”