The year is 2013. Arctic Monkeys are selling out arenas, headlining your favorite festivals, and stealing the hearts of alternative rock lovers everywhere with absolutely no mercy. “Do I Wanna Know” is on top of every playlist, drawing hundreds of thousands of eyes. Just as they reach the top with 2013’s AM and are seemingly unstoppable, fans everywhere are met with radio silence. Five years later, Alex, Matt, Jamie, and Nick are back with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and I can easily say–this album is as “Arctic Monkeys” as it could possibly get. With sultry vocals and dream-like instrumentals, the record takes listeners to a place we’ve never been before, and one we won’t want to leave.
“Star Treatment” is the first of eleven tracks, immediately giving off the impression that the group is going for an older-fashioned “rock” sound. With lighter falsettos and a gentle piano carrying Alex Turner’s voice, it almost seems as though he’s beginning the album by telling a story. With lyrics like, “I just wanted to be one of those ghosts you thought that you could forget, and then I haunt you via the rear view mirror on a long drive from the back seat. But it’s alright ’cause you love me, and you recognize that it ain’t how it should be. Your eyes are heavy and the weather’s getting ugly so pull over, I know the place,” he shows how the whole album is successful at painting vivid pictures in your head, living the story with the music. It takes listeners away and inspires a different mindset, and that is what a good record should do.
Another highlight for me was “One Point Perspective.” The only sonic element in the intro is a single keyboard, and it demands the attention of listeners right from the get go. This song is a seamless transition from one captivating story, right into another. Halfway through the track, there’s a solo from lead guitarist Jamie Cook that made me rewind the song just to hear it again. This is a prime example of how, throughout the record, Cook’s talent refuses to go unnoticed. Similarly, the second to last song, “Batphone,” is another good example of the unique, passion-fueled and sexy aspect he brings to the group.
The last song on the record is titled “The Ultracheese.” It’s a slower ballad, with the keyboard and guitar once again coming together and melting into one beautiful instrumental. Turner sings, “Oh, the dawn won’t stop weighing a ton. I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have done, but I haven’t stopped loving you since,” with sorrow and almost regret, finishing the album with heartbreaking lyrics backed by silence.
Any fans who follow their favorite band’s progress for years look forward to new music, and they have expectations of the sounds they fell in love with in the first place. Because this isn’t the Arctic Monkeys sound that took over the alternative rock scene, I could see some listeners not particularly enjoying Tranquility Base & Hotel. At the same time, I personally feel as though this record is the product of the band completely growing into their sound. The time that the group took away since 2013 wasn’t a break at all. Instead, it was a period of growth: discovering themselves as a band all together, and perfecting the sound that they want to be known for. For me, it couldn’t be more perfect. When I hear this album, I picture dark alleys and cigarettes, smokey hotel lobbies at two in the morning, and the back of a cab driving through a big, lonely city at night. I hear romance, heartbreak, and experiences that make you look back on them fondly.
WORDS BY EMILY GORDON