New Arctic Monkeys Album Review

Have you ever been to the moon? I’d only dreamt of it, until Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino came along.

Image source: Pexels

About a month ago, I wrote an article breaking down the announcement of the Arctic Monkeys’ sixth LP record, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, and provided some of my own excited predictions.

I was wrong about some things. I thought that the object featured on the album cover was a futuristic record player, when in fact it’s actually the model that Alex built of the hotel and casino.

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I thought that the album would be Gatsby-esque, but if anything, it’s relaxing and melancholy in a way that negates any thematic sprinkles of wealth or luxury. While “She Looks Like Fun” alludes to spending New Year’s Eve with Gotham’s finest, Bruce Wayne, the record is drenched in desolation, isolation, and oscillation between aching to be understood and longing to remain unknowable. We feel all of this just in the first line, where Alex croons “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes.”

There was at least one thing I was right about, though. Somehow I was able to guess which tracks would stand out as my early favorites. “One Point Perspective” is our first taste of guitar as we’re used to it, and I love it. “Science Fiction” is sultry in the way that it sounds the way a good cologne smells, and it perfectly captures the flirtation with the line between clever and pretentious.

But in the spirit of the blunt opening line of the record, I must admit I didn’t fall in love with it the way I thought I would. I felt distanced from this record in a way I haven’t from the others. I knew that I didn’t dislike it by any means, but something was holding me back from loving it the way I love Favourite Worst Nightmare (my favorite album) or Humbug.

This record felt different at first, and maybe it still does. When I first listened to it at 9 p.m. on May 10 (thank you, Pacific Time Zone), my initial reaction was: this is some of the best music I’ve ever heard, but it kind of sounds like Alex is just reading poetry. It sounded more like talking than the singing we’d become accustomed to on their past few albums. What’s interesting though is that this “talking” vibe is a lot like Alex’s singing on the first record- before Alex knew he was actually a good singer. These two records, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino and Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, sonically sound universes away from one another, yet there’s a quality that makes them feel parallel.

This parallel universe essence melted into uniformity as I continued to listen to the new record. It all clicked when I stumbled across a post from a fellow fan advising people to listen to the album on shuffle with the others, to hear how it fit in.

So I did.

And it fit right in. It’s still different from the others, but they’re all different from each other; their sound has always been evolutionary. Different, but not wrong.

Alex has described this record as a “collection of 11 short stories with recurring themes.” These songs are not pages out of his diary; they’re stories. This record is just as observational as the first, as Alex pointed out in his Beats 1 interview, but, in my opinion, it feels elevated. If WPSIATWIN is knackered converse, TBH+C is a pair of Gucci loafers.

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The tracks on this album are jazzy, but not in a way that completely departs them from the rock genre. It’s a very interdisciplinary record. Most Arctic Monkeys songs are lyrically excellent, but I love the way that this record advances that. Some of my favorite lyrics are “my weekly chat with God on video call” and “kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob.” I was also a fan of Alex mentioning “the time that I got sucked into a hole by a handheld device”, where he seems to be picking at their reputation as the anti-internet guys who accidentally became the first “internet band.” There is an antiquated energy about this futuristic album that perfectly captures the Monkeys. This isn’t a record you immediately fall in love with. You have to take it out to dinner, get to know it. There’s a courting phase that comes before the conversational energy turns into you belting out the lyrics like you’re singing it live at Lollapalooza.

As I’ve listened to the album more and more, chewed on every lyric, and dissected every interview, I feel like I’ve gained a sense of enlightenment. From “Star Treatment” feeling like the product of a jazz lounge and an evening drive on a long, winding road to the lonesome aura of “The Ultracheese”, this album encapsulates feelings that I have perhaps not yet experienced but am well acquainted with. In the spirit of science fiction, it feels like the future, but it’s also very familiar. This record doesn’t make me want to throw up my middle fingers and get lyrics tattooed. It makes me want to buy new clothes, follow my dreams, and let them carry me far away from this version of myself. It’s spacey, and I am riding that rocketship.

I don’t want to be an ultracheese and say that I give this record four stars out of five, but this mess that was made by wanting to be one of The Strokes… It’s a pretty damn good mess.

Now, if anyone needs me, I’ll be calling up Mark to book a room at Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. I’d really like to check out that taqueria on the roof.