It took the Arctic Monkeys 5 years to make a come-back. Tranquillity, Base, Hotel & Casino is unexpected, different and an excitingly mysterious album. It’s an evident new step in their career. They’ve grown up and their songs have grown with them. Their new piano-driven, retro vibe, witty lyrics mark the start of a new era for the Sheffield group.
The 70’s-like opening track, Start Treatment, covers Turner aspirations before fame, starting with the one liner ‘I just wanted to be one of The Strokes’. It begins in a playful manner, later paying homage to an icon ‘I just wanted to be one of those ghosts you thought that, you could forget and then I haunt you via the rear view mirror on a long drive from the back seat’, referencing Leonard Cohen’s song Is This What You Wanted?.
One Point Perspective starts with the piano in a chiming rhythm. It starts very simple, with the percussion being add quickly after the beginning of the track, but almost unnoticeably. Other instruments join the track later, none of them standing out individually, but building an intriguing, anticipating sound, until the moment Alex starts singing in falsetto. Finally, a guitar solo comes into place and it couldn’t make more sense. The whole track keeps it simple, from vocals to the melody itself.
American Sports follows, bringing a sharpened, older version of Arctic Monkeys. Alex Turner’s unique voice leads the whole track. The guitar solo, in the background, adds mystery to the track and occasional guitar solos bring a psychedelic vibe, which couldn’t be more noticeable than when the voice effects are added. It almost resembles, I dare to say, a Pink Floyd track.
The self-titled track is intriguing. It’s a story-telling track that is interesting yet not catchy. It differs from their previous song, Secret Door, where all these elements are combined. The drum patterns are unpredictable, and almost resemble what could be a jazz song.
Golden Track feels more like an interlude than anything else. Lyrics such as ‘the leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks’ will grab the listener’s attention. The ending couldn’t be better though, the fact Turner simply sings the chorus in a different manner, reaching a higher note, may not seem to have a huge effect, but adds variety to the song.
Four Out Of Five is a definite stand out track. The combination of Turner’s falsetto and the bass solo, is the combo you want to hear in a song intro. A style similar to Bowie’s seemed to play a role in this one. The backing vocals, the guitar solo, the way the song builds until the last moment, finishing with the intro solo, bring the album back to the old, rock’n’roll Arctic Monkeys.
The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip is an interesting track where Turner analyses people’s devotions with their own devices and societal attitudes, ‘you push the button and we’ll do the rest, the exotic sound of data storage’. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Turner revealed how he picked a name for the track, ‘that was verbatim a news story I was unable to resist clicking on about a year ago, and I was unable to resist naming a song after it. It was laid out for me. We’re just living in a world where they’re flipping monster trucks forward’.
While Science Fiction may not stand out in the album melodically, witty lyrics such as ‘I want to make a simple point about peace and love, but in a sexy way where it’s not obvious’, makes it a bit entertaining to listen too.
She Looks Like Fun is anything but fun. The repeated one phrase chorus doesn’t add anything new to the album. Although, a certain verse of the song ‘dance as if somebody’s watching, because they are’, adds to the social media critique, also explored in other tracks in the album.
Batphone is clever, weird, interesting, mysterious and the best part of the entire album. Lyrics, such as ‘I launch my fragrance called Integrity, I sell the fact that I can’t be bought’, simply clever and punchy, while also referencing to people’s use of technology, from being specific mentioning, ‘killer pink flamingos’ (an accessory used for photos, especially trending on Instagram) as well as giving a broader view in the end of the song ‘computer controlled, panoramic windows looking out across your soul’.
They end the album, with one of their strongest tracks. The kind of rock ballad you could expect in their previous album AM. An easy comparison would be saying that in style it’s like Number 1 Party Anthem 2.0. The Ultracheese is a smooth, slow-paced, vulnerable at times song, driven by the piano progression. One thing is known for sure, it is a very harmonious track.
Through metaphors, technology and social media criticism, predominantly piano-driven songs, Arctic Monkeys are showing that they have matured in their style. It may come as unpredictable for many people, but it is quite natural considering Turner’s previous projects with The Last Shadow Puppets. They still have the edge, they’re just showing a new side with Tranquillity, Base, Hotel & Casino.