In the mid-2000s, Arctic Monkeys emerged in the English Alternative Rock/Indie Pop scene with an icy-cool bang and blast, immediately catapulting the music of this then upcoming group into the center of the revitalized music genres. This sense of urgency most likely emanated from the members’ very young ages during the time they started the band; all of them had just turned 20 when they released their first album.
Formed in 2002, in Sheffield, England, by Alex Turner (lead vocals, rhythm/lead guitar), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (lead/rhythm guitar), and Nick O’Malley (bass, backing vocals), Arctic Monkeys have already five studio albums on their lovely tails—from 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to 2013’s AM. After a short hiatus following the promotional tour for their last album, Arctic Monkeys are back, with a new record!
Scheduled for release on Friday, May 11, 2018, through Domino Records, Arctic Monkeys’ latest, sixth oeuvre is titled Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Just one look at the list of the additional instruments that the band had used in the recording of this new offering of theirs—which included vibraphone, Farfisa, harpsichord, timpani, and Wurlitzer—one can already imagine how textured, layered, and different each of the tracks must be compared with the band’s previous works; and that should be enough to titillate the senses of especially those who like ornate songs and who are expecting well-crafted materials from the much-missed band.
As expected, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is as equally compelling as its predecessors yet a remarkably sophisticated departure from the familiar Indie Rock sound of Arctic Monkeys. It opens with the light-jazzy, starry swagger of “Star Treatment,” which will surely remind the initiated of Sophistipop songs by the likes of Aztec Camera (“How Men Are”), Prefab Sprout (“We Let the Stars Go”), Everything But the Girl (“Sugar Finney”), The Waterboys (“Nearest Thing To Hip”), and ABC (“The Flames of Desire”). The ensuing “One Point Perspective” pulsates confidently with its similar silky, smooth rhythm, which serves as a soft, warm bed to Turner’s seductive falsettos; whereas the slightly syncopated and spacey “American Sports” gallops its way onto the quiet area of the lounge, conjuring an image of the band wearing black tuxedos and shiny loafers with their hair neatly slicked back. O’Malley’s bass lines then hug the limelight as the title track cascades and flickers its melodic flourishes, with Turner’s voice coming across as a blend of that of David Bowie in his final works (“Sue [Or in a Season of Crime]”) and Bono’s during U2’s Achtung Baby era (“One”).
“Golden Trunks” changes the mood and pace a bit – still sexy with its subdued grace, but is draped with a sense of danger with the sinister-sounding guitar ad-lib. The dark mood carries onto the angular guitar-glazed “Four Out of Five,” which will fit a breathtaking scene in a James Bond film. Then there is the waltzy, staccato piano-led “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip,” whose melodramatic flare is a trek into something theatrical.
The punchy beats, lush sounds, and chilling sonic ambience of “Science Fiction” complement the track’s lyrical content very well, whereas the progressively structured “She Looks Like Fun” is another dramatic dabbling into Vaudeville. The quirky “Batphone” then returns the listener to the album’s Spy/Detective-worthy atmospherics. Finally, Arctic Monkeys closes Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino with the slow piano ballad “The Ultracheese.” Strategic. Flawless.
When Arctic Monkeys were just beginning to take their baby steps in the music scene, as usual, many critics derogated them, claiming that they were too young to rock and to know about Indie music. Such bashers!
In music, as in love, age does not matter. Music knows no boundaries. If 16 years and six albums mean nothing to such detractors, then who cares about these disparagers anyway? What is important is that here is a band, such as Arctic Monkeys, that continues to deliver great music; and that should be enough. Their forthcoming new full-length is another testament to Arctic Monkeys’ youthfully vibrant yet stylistically expanding musical ingenuity. CrypticRock gives Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino 4 out of 5 stars.