Five years. it has been five years since new Arctic Monkeys music. A lot of anticipation has been built up for the Sheffield-based band’s sixth studio album. A lot of different expectations, some wanting darker-and-dirtier rock similar to their fifth album, AM. There were some who wanted the more garage-rock sound similar to their first studio album, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not. So which way did Alex Turner, Matt Helders, Jamie Cook and Nick O’Malley take this highly-sought-out record? Did they listen to the crowd or did they take their twelve years of experience and crafted a Frankenstein album?
I’m going to share a brief summary of my history with the band, to add the context of why this is a big deal to me. Hi, my name is Darya, I run a pretty big arctic monkeys blog on tumblr.. a lot of you may know me as freshprincesofsheffield, the blog is over 5 years old, and the band arctic monkeys play a big role in my high school life.
I had the privilege of seeing the band live in 2013, and I had one of the luckiest and gracious concerts experience when I saw them. I not only had the privilege of seeing them live in a small-ish theatre setting, but I was front and center and got to experience the music in what felt the personal atmosphere. I felt like I was the only one in the room, I interacted with the band a lot and even got to leave the show with Alex’s guitar pick.
Not only did I have a brilliant live experience, I got to meet the band before the show. Yes, little 18 year-old-Darya got to hug and talk to who, at the time, was my all time
favorite band. It was an exhilarating experience that I am forever grateful for.
So when the band went on hiatus in 2014, for what ended being nearly a five-year hiatus. I was completely heartbroken. I was dedicating all my free time to them (not their fault, but yaknow?), my Arctic Monkeys blog was growing rapidly, especially with the success of their fifth album, AM. What was I supposed to do once they’re on break?
such a first world problem, but bear with me.
The band has been around for over a decade, and it was considered to be a near overrated band in the UK until their American breakout with their fifth studio album AM. AM created what I call general-American-attention, which is what I label anything that doesn’t go beyond a few mainstream hits due to the song being overplayed on a radio rock station, as well as an album being the most popular selling at Urban Outfitters.
In 2014, Arctic Monkeys became the poster-image for an Urban Outfitters band. Thus, resulting in a discomfort within the longtime fan community, especially those in the UK. With this realization, I began to understand why the band felt like it was best to put their sky-rocketing fame on a pause. At the end of the day, this four-piece band were and are still deeply attached to their roots, Sheffield (England) is still home for them, and they didn’t want to lose that to their General-American-Attention fame ( can I coin this term yet?)
Also, it helps that 3/4ths of the band have become fathers and Alex broke the eight-year The Last Shadow Puppets hiatus and brought out a new record for that project and toured.
BUUUT, this is about the sixth Arctic Monkeys album, so let’s get cracking.
The time has passed, the long, dreadful years have come and gone. Here we are on May 11 2018 at exactly 12am with the blessed new Arctic Monkeys Album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Now I went into this album completely blind, I read some reviews, and I had a handful of people come to my Arctic Monkeys blog saying that the record is not what they waited for, that it was werid and not Arctic Monkeys-esque in the slightest, but I avoided live clips and teasers, because when I heard it was a concept album I wanted to play it start to finish uninterrupted.
The album starts with a mellow key-solo and soft drumming of the song Star Treatment, immediately telling the listener that this is not and will not be an “R U Mine?” 2.0 album. Alex opens the album with “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes”, which could be an implementation of whatever the “AM” Alex and Arctic Monkeys was, was not the band’s true form. That it could have been the pressure to fit into the aesthetic of the alternative rock scene at the time. He then later states in the song “I found out the hard way that here ain’t no place for dolls like you and me; Everybody’s on a bridge floating down the endless stream of great TV 1984 2019″, once again giving me the impression that after a long break, the band feels ready to not be the band that people expect them to be and be the band they want to be.
This theme follows through the entire 11-tracks of the album, not a single song being a potential “Rock and Roll” anthem, but more of a psychedelic-poetic-bluesy-groove. Personally, I fucking love it. Alex’s voice is suited for the more poetic Jim Morrison spoken-word-singing aesthetic.
For many years now Alex said his dream was to write a James Bond theme song, he loves the sultry drama that every Bond Theme song illudes, and I find then entire Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino could be the soundtrack to an old-school James Bond film. It oozes this cool and sultry groove but in such an effortless manner.
Lyrically, it is not Alex’s best work, at least not necessarily. However, it’s just me being stubborn and thinking that nothing could top the cleverness of their third studio album, humbug. This album does have its clever one-liners, but unlike Alex’s typical work of crafting phrases that could have many different meanings, or that take a while for you to realize that what you’re listening to is not at face value, this album is a lot more blunt and to the point.
Which I have noticed is a dominant of the way of writing in his latest work with the Last Shadow Puppets, I have nothing against it and it actually gives the albums a more of an easy listen. However, it was a lot of fun to give the albums a couple of listens and catch something different. With this record, I understood what he was implying with the first listen, but that doesn’t weaken the album for me, although I have already read a lot of complaints about that.. to each their own I supposed.
A personal favourite track of mine is “She Looks Like Fun”, it has the elements of the AM album with its heavier guitar sound but stays on the groove of the seventies blues elements that is embodied throughout the album. The chorus is the simple chant of “She Looks Like Fun” in a deeper baritone, but it works. Near the two minute mark of the song, we are given a nice little guitar solo that ties the song together, leaving it nearly impossible for someone to remain motionless while listening to it.
Ultimately, I give the album an 8 out of 10. I really appreciate the refreshing sound of this album. I was one of those people who was praying that they did not give us an AM 2.0, because to me that says “hey, this sold well, we want the money so we’ll do it”. When a band takes nearly five years to work on an album, it better be different. It better be experimental and fresh, which is exactly what Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is. It’s different in comparison to the rock music market, but it’s not necessarily different from Arctic Monkeys roots. To me, this is the true Arctic Monkeys, this is a mature version of Humbug, this gives a more natural vibe than AM, and I couldn’t be more glad that they decided to go with this sound.
The only reason I give it an eight and not a nine or a staggering ten is that it did not blow my mind. It’s a good album, it’s different, but I feel like the band could have really taken it further. Darker, more instrumentals, more dramatic, but they didn’t. It’s as safe as a different album can be. Will I still listen to it more than AM? Yes. Also, I am just really glad they are back and that it isn’t a repeat of their last record.
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