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Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino album: An immersive listen

Artiste: Arctic Monkeys; Album: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Love songs, heartbreaks and toy boy attitude included, British rockers Arctic Monkeys went from wry lyricisms to grown-up jadedness in a decade. Now, five years since their somewhat diverse album AM, Alex Turner and Co switch gears completely on their sixth record Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

In 11 tracks that are steeped in science fiction references (including, well, a track called ‘Science Fiction’) and alternate and seemingly parallel realities, Arctic Monkeys make the sonic shift to a piano-bred psychedelic/pop sound that revels in eerie electric waves as well as the familiar fuzzy rhythms (Jamie Cook, Nick O’Malley and Matt Helders doing it right), only now leaning into jazz territory as well. Is it a departure or a detour? Time will tell, but thankfully, their reminiscent tone remains intact.

If the artwork and imagism in the lyrics made you visualise, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a place on the moon (drawing its name or location from the first ever landing site on the satellite) where a dejected Turner (at his Steinway piano) and the band sing about life in the not-too-distant future.

They go in hard with the pop culture references, metaphors and imagery, because there’s references to the moon crater Clavius on the delightfully jumpy and groovy ‘Four Out of Five’, which is the site of a taco stand called the Information-Action Ratio (taken from culture nonfiction book Amusing Ourselves to Death).

There’s references to Wayne Manor (on the ghoulish takedown of social media ‘She Looks Like Fun’) and a ‘Batphone’, in which Turner uses unpoetic words to talk about phone-centric lives over a sluggish but trippy cacophony of guitars, vocal melodies and synth.

More often than not, they’re lamenting a life lost, right from the celeb life (jazzing up on ‘Star Treatment’) to deliberating on hanging it all up (on the Stanley Kubrick-referenced ‘One Point Perspective’). On the downbeat ‘Golden Trunks’, there’s peak bizarre – politics (“Leader of the free world”) and fantasies. The lounge-y ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Flip’, there’s more complicated words and sarcasm. In between all that is their haunting, cinematic title track that’s rightfully the centrepiece, almost like a modern-day ‘Hotel California’ in its gloom and doom.

There’s heavy lyrical emphasis on this album, but Turner almost urges us to abandon it all on the closing track ‘The Ultracheese’: “I might look as if I'm deep in thought/But the truth is I'm probably not/If I ever was.” Still, it’s an immersive listen that you can let yourself get beamed into, and emerge with a new love for Arctic Monkeys as clever songwriters.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 3:55:03 PM |

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