Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino (Album Review)

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5 years is a long time, especially if you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan, their long awaited follow up to 2013’s AM, Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino, has broken the half-decade of silence…

As the saying goes ‘things change with time’ and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to the new release; their trippy new sound is dividing opinions. Anyone who follows an Arctic Monkeys fan on Twitter may have already seen threads of hot-headed opinionated tweets; whether it’s slating the hell out of an anti-climatic record, or jumping to the defence of the Sheffield four-some’s wondrous new groove. I don’t think this  is necessarily a bad thing.

On first listen the album doesn’t exactly knock you off your seat; the heavy piano presence feels almost wrong, the tracks all sound almost too similar to tell apart and it leaves you feeling as though there is a lack of something, but you’re not quite sure what. The anticipation of heavy bass bangers is left squashed by a chilled out lounge album. However this isn’t a sequel to AM, we couldn’t expect a continuation of the sounds from 2013, stories of drunken nights, blurred highs and pulling girls. Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino is the product of years worth of changes and development, not just as a band but as men.

One of the biggest changes is a frontman Alex Turner’s transition from guitar to piano. Having confessed in the build up to the album’s release that the inspiration to write new material only came when he was sat at the piano, it takes 5 seconds of the first track ‘Star Treatment’ to hear just how important the piano has now become. Throughout the album, piano chords and riffs play a substantial part in creating almost all of the tracks, with the odd few featuring more synth-y keyboard. On each listen the instrument exchange sounds more fluid and less alien, the synth-y keyboard especially contributes to the spacey dystopian theme of the album. ‘American Sports’ sounds as though it was created for a sci-fi show from the high pitched intro to the opening line “so when you gaze at planet earth from outer space does it wipe that stupid look off of your face”. The theme continues throughout the entire album with one of the later tracks literally being called ‘Science Fiction’.

Almost all of the tracks has some mention of technology. “Have I told you all about the time that I got sucked into a hole through a handheld device” in Batphone  and “the exotic sound of data storage nothing like it” in ‘The worlds First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’. These are just two of the more obvious mentions of modern tech throughout the album. With the worlds current obsession with technology of all types and our obsessions with our phones, it’s obviously a relevant subject to base an album around. We often hear about how technology destroys our creativity, so perhaps this is why Alex Turner had to switch to a piano, one of the least technological and oldest instruments around.

Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino isn’t all totally freaky and weird, it’s actually a great album. Once you listen through again its clear to hear classic arctic Monkeys, even just from the way Turner says “bear wi’me man I just lost my train of thought” in ‘One Point Perspective’. My personal favourite however, ‘She Looks Like Fun’, is growing to be one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys’ songs of all time, with the title sung throughout on top of catchy Beatles-y backing; it’s a very dreamy combination.

‘Four Out of Five’ is the first single from the album and another highlight; imagine David Bowie singing alongside the Beatles. It’s the one song off the album which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on AM which is a nice treat placed directly in the middle of an album full of new. 

The album sounds big, with the piano, drums and bass all complimenting each other in a perfectly eclectic way. Even though it’s divided opinions, I don’t think either view is wrong because I’ve felt both. That being said, I am tending to lean towards the positive because on each listen it becomes clearer that this is an thoroughly impressive record.

Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino is available now via Domino Records.

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