Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Tranquility Base was a name given to the section of the moon where in 1969 the Apollo 11 astronauts landed, and the idea of a hotel and casino on the exact spot on the moon, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked, is as bonkers as the rest of this album!

The sixth Arctic Monkeys album will leave many people baffled, and an equal number thinking it’s utter genius. Gone are the upfront sharp, razor blade guitar riffs of their previous albums, to be replaced by a softer, more expansive sound. I’m all in favour of bands trying to innovate their sound, but Arctic Monkeys seemed to have pushed the cart so far down the road it’s in a completely new town, with the only remaining constant being the dulcet tones of Alex Turner’s vocals.

Alex Turner apparently composed most of this album on the piano, as he felt the guitar was too limiting this time around. Ironic then that the opening line of first track ‘Star Treatment’ is “I always wanted to be in The Strokes”, well maybe when you started, but it doesn’t sound like that anymore on this one! The title track has those piano chords upfront with slower guitar notes lingering over the top and Alex’s vocals weaving another melody line altogether over the top, whereas ‘Golden Trunks’ has more beautiful piano chords backed with distorted wailing guitar notes and Alex’s falsetto vocals soaring above.

‘Four Out Of Five’ has horror film spooky piano sounds with Alex singing about a “lunar surface on a Saturday night with Old Grey Whistle Test lights”, no idea what it all means, but it’s suitably trippy, and other worldly. ‘Science Fiction’ has a spooky piano backing, punctuated by short guitar blasts lurking subtly, whereas ‘She Looks Like Fun’ has more of the lounge style vocals, syncopated guitar riffs and gentle drum rolls in the background, with a guitar solo entering the picture towards the end.

‘Batphone’ is another piece of music which wouldn’t sound out of place in a modern musical, it’s that kind of quirky tune which meanders around all over the place setting a scene for further action to follow, and ‘The Ultracheese’ is a slow swinging style tune, and is actually one of the best tracks on the album, even if the only dancefloor this one would look good on is the one in the ballroom of Blackpool Tower, and that’s probably a compliment they’d be proud of given the new direction.

Listen to Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino imagining it’s a new album by a brand new band, and it actually stands up as an intriguing earful of woozy melodies and slow-paced beauty. It has an almost cinematic scope as many of the tunes on here could easily be played in the background of a film – you know, the bits where they pan out across the landscape as the action fades off into the distance. However, as we’ve all heard plenty of AM tunes before, it’ll always have (probably mostly unfavourable) comparisons to their back catalogue. That’s unfair though as for this one, they’ve truly expanded their sound, and once you get your head around the new direction, it works as a slow summer R’n’B meets rock album, one you can slowly nod your head to throughout, and once you delve into its hazy charm, you’ll soon realise the musical adventures waiting to be unleashed.

Release Date 11th May 2018 (Domino Records)

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.