Best of the Month: Arctic Monkeys' 'Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino'
It is 9:30am May 11, 2018. The release date of Arctic Monkeys’ album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. I am listening to it in its entirety for the third time today. Here is the progression of my experience/opinion through each listen.
First Listen, 1:34 PM:
I am distraught. Completely. The Arctic Monkeys entire discography I have loved up until this point. What the heck is Alex Turner doing? Is he talking? Is he singing? Is he somehow French now, what is this accent? He sounds almost how I sound when I try to do a subtle English accent singing along to “Mardy Bum.”
This album sounds like Turner was sitting in his London loft last night like, “Oh shit gotta release that album in a few hours, lemme get out Garageband and my electronic keyboard real quick…oi.”
It honestly feels as if Alex Turner has grown so deeply entrenched in his own success and arrogance that he doesn’t even let the rest of the band contribute anymore. They are missing from the album. He’s just pressing keys on a keyboard, swaying around the studio saying random words (i.e. the lyrics, “Wayne Manor, what a memorable NYE. Good morning. Cheeseburger. Snowboarding” or “Pull me in close on a crisp eve baby, kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob.”)
The vocals just aren’t good. They are choppy and forced. Turner can do falsetto as exhibited in tons of other Monkeys’ songs but on this album he has some sort of horrid whine. Maybe it's the goatee that’s ruining him?
Also I’m totally down for bands evolving but I miss the awesome guitar riffs of times past. Don’t try and fix something that isn’t broken.
However, I will give credit to Turner for bravely straying from his comfort zone by creating this album via his non-native instrument piano.
As a forever fan of this band, I feel like this album was released as a product of the thought that the Arctic Monkeys’ loyal fans will like anything they put out. I don’t like it.
Second Listen: 3:54 PM
I am so deeply disturbed by the idea of disliking an album from the band I grew up on that I vowed to give it another listen all the way through.
The second listen is definitely more successful. I think perhaps going in with excessively low expectations is making this time around a bit better.
I’m starting to feel out the direction. The pseudo-cheesiness of the whole thing is intentional in the way that it is supposed to be like a somewhat decrepit hotel band.
Really feeling, “Star Treatment” and “One Point Perspective.”
Still very iffy about the vocals. We have just heard so much better from Turner, this is disappointing. It sounds as if he is intentionally veering from his natural range.
Perhaps this album must age and grow on you with time. But if you have to listen to an album multiple times does that mean that you like it or that you like the idea of it? (This crisis is taking a strangely introspective turn.)
Third Listen: 9:30 PM
Alright. I get it.
Despite the vocals still being a bit hard for me to swallow, once you get the image of this album in your head, it really flows.
This album takes some work to like. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but you need to do some research and really feel out the tracks before you truly enjoy it. On the other hand, I may just be forcing myself to like it subconsciously. At this point, I’m not sure.
Ok, so let's get into the backstory of this album. Tranquility Base is the site on the moon were humans first landed. So, this thought-up hotel is literally on the face of the moon. That’s pretty cool.
Now look into the lyrics. They’re a very interesting narrative on this whole experience. It’s definitely a sort of “Hotel California” you-can-check-out-any-time-you-like but-you-can-never-leave vibe. Extremely isolated.
“Advertise in imaginative ways, start your free trial today
Come on in, the water's lovely
Look, you could meet someone you like
During the meteor strike, it is that easy
Lunar surface on a Saturday night, dressed up in silver and white
With coloured old grey whistle test lights”
- “Four Out of Five”
Imagine Alex Turner with his creepy goatee, silk shirt, greasy hair and gold chain swaying his hips around some lunar-based futuristic hotel, the Tranquility Hotel Base & Casino.
This album is a period piece. However, it is a period unknown to us, one that hasn’t even happened yet. A futuristic moon colony that only Alex Turner truly knows. Once you understand these points this album comes together so well.
It’s weird as hell but I love it now. Who else could tie terrestrial emotions and longing to the vastness and unknown that is space other than Alex Turner himself (and the late David Bowie of course)?
I think what would help facilitate the direction of this album even better is more visuals to truly paint the images of what the album tries to create. Now, who knows if music videos are in store but I think that will add immensely to the experience.
Still not a massive fan of some of the inflections and style of the vocals, especially on the title track.
“Four Out of Five” and “The Ultracheese” are most reminiscent of old Monkeys, having more guitar than the other tracks. So I instinctively favor those a bit more.
However, “Star Treatment”, “Batphone” and “She Looks Like Fun” are the best of the “new sound.” Super weird, very untraditional and intergalactic.
As mentioned previously it’s actually quite impressive that Turner managed an album with such specific moods and imagery on the piano, which isn’t his main instrument. Also, I think the fact that the guitar is a bit more toned down on this compilation really lets the bass riffs shine. Especially on “Batphone” and “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip.”
This album grows on you with a little effort. I’m truly not sure if that is good or bad but it’s an experience I can’t say I’ve had with an album ever before.
The future of the Arctic Monkeys is unclear, but I can say with almost complete certainty that Alex Turner is currently calculating the logistics of performing their last show on the face of the moon. It’s Alex Turner I mean c’mon.
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