Arctic Monkeys Slow It Down and Get Weird on Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
I'll start by saying this: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is not Arctic Monkey's strongest work. It contains neither the stinging, punk bite of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I Not nor the catchy, well-produced hooks of AM and Favourite Worst Nightmare. In fact, the production may be one of the most annoying things about this record. But once you get past these facts, it is possible to enjoy this album for what it is: a strange, mellow and somewhat dreamlike detour from Arctic Monkeys' normal songwriting.
From the first song of the album, "Star Treatment," it is apparent that something is a little off. The vocals (and the instruments as a whole) are less cleanly produced. The guitar is conspicuously low in the mix compared to the bass and vocals. And, perhaps most prominently, there is a lot of extra keyboard and piano present compared to the usual. Adding to the effect is the fact that the vocalist sounds significantly less suave than on previous albums, leading with a line about wanting to be one of the Strokes, of all things. This odd style carries throughout the entirety of the record, so if the first song does not impress you, it is best to turn back now.
Those who do stick around (and this is an album that benefits from multiple listens) will be treated to 11 tracks of mellow, interesting and, yes, sometimes bland song-writing. Songs like "One Point Perspective" and "Golden Trucks" lack any obvious hooks, but are balanced out by tracks like the aforementioned "Star Treatment," the title track and, a personal favorite, "Science Fiction." These songs stand out not only because of their dreamy quality, but also because of their unusually stream-of-consciousness lyrical content. Alex Turner gets almost Bowie-esque in his fun and weird ramblings, dropping some of my favorite "what-the-fuck" one-liners ("What do you mean you've never seen Blade Runner?", "Technological advances really bloody get me in the mood.")
Instrumentally, the album is more focused on atmosphere than anything else. The guitarist does not get much to do it all, and it often feels like the band is trying to set a mood more than create a song. If that seems like something you can appreciate, then this album is for you. For those more a fan of Arctic Monkeys' more traditional rock-based fare, you might want to wait around until the next one.