‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ album review
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
After a five-year hiatus, The Arctic Monkeys have finally released their highly-anticipated new album.
The band’s sixth studio album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, was released on May 11 and has since received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike. Whether you love it or hate it, there is a single thing that everyone agrees with—it’s not your average Arctic Monkeys record… or music record in general.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a concept album, where the concept combines “Space Oddity” and “Hotel California” for the strangest mashup in modern rock to date. It answers the age-old question, “What does a hotel on the moon sound like?”
Lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner plays the character of a washed-up hotel lounge singer who croons about technology, social media, current political climates, and disco lizards. The album debuts a more mature sound that is probably the truest to themselves that the band has been since their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006).
Despite being focused on the present, Tranquility Base has the sound of lounge music from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. I think that this was deliberately done to play around with those generations’ focus on science fiction—a common theme on this album.
For those who hoped that this record would be the last hurrah for rock and roll, you’ll be mistaken but not disappointed. Heavy piano use has replaced the cutting guitar of older albums, causing Tranquility Base to have a lounge sound throughout all of its tracks. The change keeps the music fresh and shows off Turner’s chops at tickling the ivories.
He learned how to play the piano for the album and it paid off, somehow bringing the instrument into the songs without making them sound like showtunes. The sparse drums, guitar, and bass throughout the tracks pop when they are used, complementing the slower tempo of the songs. The guitar riff in “She Looks Like Fun” comes to mind as an example.
Turner’s vocals are very impressive on this album. He switches between voices depending on the song, showing the wide range he has. For example, for “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” his voice is a near perfect match to David Bowie, while the second song, “One Point Perspective,” showcases the highest his voice has ever gone. It’s as if he brought the falsettos from AM to the umpteenth level for the new album.
The lyrics have the same tongue-in-cheek quips that have become a staple of the band, with lyrics like “Swamp monster with a hard-on for connectivity” from the track “Science Fiction,” and “I’ll sell the fact that I can’t be bought” from “Batphone.” However, what makes the lyrics particularly challenging to take in is that most of the songs barely have a chorus in them and could read as free-verse poetry. It takes multiple listens (or a quick Google) to actually understand exactly what Turner is singing about due the unique way the songs are written. Although it sounds like complete nonsense at first, after a few listens you can start to get the idea more, and they end up being some of the strongest lyrics Turner has penned.
It appears as if the Arctic Monkeys aren’t slowing down anytime soon—despite the reduction in tempo. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a challenging, thought-provoking album that I’ll definitely be giving multiple listens.