The writing was on the wall as soon as Arctic Monkeys announced their sixth LP Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, something was different. From the rollnecks and the dubious facial hair to the headline splashed across Mojos June cover we can do anything! coupled with the fact the record came to life by Alex Turner writing on a piano instead of a guitar – initially it seemed that the Sheffield outfits latest effort could end up as a Turner solo project the bands new album was going to be a curveball. Ladies and gentlemen welcome to Arctic Monkeys: the lounge act.
Whilst it matters not that guitars have taken a back seat on TBHC if the boys concocted an album to the sound of a wooden spoon being whacked on a saucepan and the results turned out to be good who am I to judge the bands methods however 11 tracks of tepid lounge-pop that veers towards elevator jazz means the four-pieces next instalment is remarkably underwhelming. The overall sound would have worked nicely as a low-key solo EP with Turners name on it. The band and Turner have always carried a rich, penchant for days gone by when they ratchet down the volume – see their cover of Baby Im Yours, Favourite Worst Nightmares Only Ones Who Know and the swooning closing track from AM I Wanna Be Yours but on TBHC this overhaul to their sonic aesthetic falls short, at times its dull and a little cringey. We wouldnt want the band to rattle out facsimiles of I Bet You Look on the Dancefloor forever more, plus witnessing a band evolve, as Arctic Monkeys have done, from teenage indie-scamps, dabblers into desert rock and slick rock n rollers, is part of the allure of being a music fan but its hard to shake off that TBHC feels self-indulgent taking the we can do anything! mantra way too far this time around.
Alex Turner is, arguably, one of the best lyricists of his generation but on TBHC his wordplay resembles
something closer to rambled gibberish twinned with a croon that feels contrived, mixed with beige background music, its hardly a winning combination. Dance in my underpants/Im gonna run for government/Im gonna form a covers band opens One Point Perspective while this nonsensical babble crops up on the albums eponymous track Jesus in the day spa/filling out the information form/momma got her hair down/just popping out to sing a protest song/Ive been on a bender no shit mate, youre drunk Alex, go home! Genuinely, there are moments on TBHC where it feels like this album is an elaborate joke Flight of the Conchords-style but the joke isnt funny.
There are some moments of redemption to be found on Arctic Monkeys sixth effort; Four Out Of Five has a pleasing stomp and Golden Trunks fuzzy riff makes a nice variation on the flaccid piano and drum motifs. Plus, the album holds some fantastic song titles The Worlds First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip and Batphone being two of them. In a weirdly prophetic manner the record is capped off by The Ultracheese which sums up TBHC given how much the album whiffs of ripe fromage.
Itll be interesting to see how this album effects Arctic Monkeys legacy, as up until now theyve been untouchable with a near immaculate output. Theres no doubting that Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino is going to be a polarizing album I guess time will tell. One thing is for sure Ill not be checking back into the Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino anytime soon.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams