Friday 11 May 2018

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I've always been a fan of Arctic Monkeys, and by always I mean definitely for about the past 10 years; I wouldn't say they're one of my favourite bands, but I would say AM is one of my favourite albums, and I will always treasure the memory of being drunk at Leeds Fest in 2014 and watching them headline, dancing in the rain with strangers to the soundtrack of Arabellllaaaaa. Anyway, fans have had a long wait for the new album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and it's already got mixed reviews so I thought I'd throw mine in as well...

"There are things that I just cannot explain to you
and those that I hope I don't ever have to"

Now, Star Treatment isn't the song I'd have chosen to lead with personally but right away it shows how much Arctic Monkeys have changed - the whole sound is completely unlike anything they've done before. If it wasn't for Alex Turner's unmistakably recognisable voice, you might wonder who it was. But I think most people could pin point his voice anywhere. It's got a strange sound to it, this song, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing it is somewhat jarring. But you have to remember that this is a new album, a new thing.

One Point Perspective and American Sports are fairly similar to each other, but there's a really odd and jarring transition between the two tracks which makes the whole thing sound a bit weird. They're both piano-heavy, which is quite nice really, and again so very different to the guitar-laden rock that was AM - but more recognisable as Arctic Monkeys than the previous track. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, track number four, is jazzy in sound and juxtaposed with very deep vocals from Alex T; but for a song that shares its name with the album, I don't think it's all that great.

Golden Trunks is quite nice, just a little short song, but I never really thought I'd be sat here describing an Arctic Monkeys song as 'nice'. You know? Four Out of Five is, I think, one of the best songs on there; it's quite dramatic and theatrical, and shows off Alex Turner's voice - how easy it is for him to move between notes, how broad his sound is. I like this one.

The World's First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip is almost psychedelic, or wants to be at first; lyrically this one is a bit baffling, but it's a good song all in all. The next track, Science Fiction, is probably the most reminiscent of older stuff, especially when Turner sings certain words. Again, this is quite a good song - the tracks are definitely better the further down you get, or maybe you just get used to the sound. I definitely felt the same on my second run-through, though, so I think it is a case of leaving the better songs til closer to the end.

She Looks Like Fun is deep and dark and dramatic to begin with, and switches abruptly between this and a softer, higher and more mellow sound. It screams theatrical, and it fits in well with the sci-fi theme of the whole album. The penultimate track, Batphone, is lyrically marvellous and that's what I love about Alex Turner - his way with words is poetic and outrageous and shouldn't always work, but most of the time it does. This one isn't exactly the easiest song to listen to - musically it's quite gappy and jarring - but it's definitely a good song. The Ultracheese is a good one to end on - calmer than a lot of the other songs, but musically so very beautiful.

So there you have it - am I glad I didn't pay £70 for tickets to the upcoming tour? Yes, but that doesn't mean the album is bad. It's not my kind of thing, not personally, but there's no denying that musically (and lyrically) they've done an excellent job. They've never been a band to play it safe; I just don't think anyone expected them to change things up quite this much... But you can't expect a band to sound the same as they did a decade ago, and a four year hiatus will definitely have an impact, as will living in LA and working on other musical projects with other, very different, musicians.

I think the album is experimental, and I think they were taking a risk - whether or not it pays off, we'll have to see, but there's no denying that the thematic and musical aspects of this album are wonderful. Sure it won't be everyone's cup of tea but really, I do think it's okay.

If you've listened to the album by now, let me know what you think!

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