by DAVY WASHINGTON
“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is the Arctic Monkeys’ most recent album that was released in May 2018 and was one of the group’s most polarizing releases by far. Taking a step away from the traditional alternative/indie rock sound, Alex Turner, the lead singer of the Arctic Monkeys, shifted gears to writing songs with deeper metaphorical meanings that struck fans as mildly confusing. When the album was originally released, it was met with a lot of criticism because of the “deviation” from the type of music the Arctic Monkeys typically produce, which caused a split in the fanbase.
One of the more distinctive elements of this album was the general composition of the songs, which relied more heavily on piano than the typical indie rock guitar expected from the group. This departure from their traditional rock sound—along with the more abstract lyrics—is what made this album so divisive for their long-time fans. It’s been almost four years since the album was released, and some of the songs have become new classics for the group. Given the absence of new music from the group and the deviation from their original sound, it’s worth taking a look at. After listening to it for a few weeks, it’s one of my favorite albums, and I’m here to tell you why.
The album opens with “Star Treatment,” a song that serves as an ode to Turner’s former self and the band as a whole. It’s a commentary on his aspirations and goals as a musician. The five-minute song opens with the line, “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes/Now look at the mess you made me make,” which is a callback to some comments Turner has made about The Strokes’ influence on the band’s overall sound. The song is built on a smooth bassline and drums that physically force you to vibe out. Seriously. You have to. The general air of the song is hotel lobby-lounge music that gets you deep into the groove.
Moving forward to the next track—and one of my personal favorites—“One Point Perspective,” the song opens with a repeated piano note, strong vocals and a steady beat that keeps the song marching onward. The bassline comes in at the beginning of the second verse and sets the mood for the song, giving a feeling that’s like ascending to a different state of being. The guitar solo that comes in at the end of the bridge is a metaphorical blastoff for that ascension that, upon first listen, made me want to air-play along with the lead guitarist. The lines in this verse, “Oh, just as the apocalypse finally gets prioritized/And you cry some of the hottest tears you ever cried/Multiplied by five/I suppose a singer must die,” are by far the most striking lines in the song, alluding to Turner’s admittance to letting go of his ambition to reach a certain level of fame. Finally, the last line, “A singer must die,” pays homage to the late singer Leonard Cohen’s song by the same name, which reflects how Turner has also gone on to draw direct inspiration from Cohen.
“The Ultracheese,” which is the last song of the album, is one of their best closing tracks to date. The track features some of the most powerful vocals and deep reflections of the album. The intro of the song starts with piano and drum, which leads you into Turner’s ballad that is a reflection of his career, his music and the world’s changing interaction with music. The song is a commentary on how detached he feels from his life and the world of music, looking back at old pictures and not being able to recognize the people he sees. Lines like, “Still got pictures of friends on the wall/I suppose we aren’t really friends anymore…What a death I died/writing that song/Start to finish, with you looking on” really drive this point home. This is Turner realizing that life isn’t the same as it once was and the image of his rockstar life has come and gone. It’s truly poetic.
All in all, this album features so many wonderful pieces. From booming songs like “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” and “Four Out Of Five” to the more relaxed ethereal songs like “Batphone” and “Star Treatment,” there’s a little bit for everyone to enjoy in this masterpiece.