Five years after their monumental album AM, Arctic Monkeys return with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.
The music lives up to the title… a lonely, pensive, vintage vibe threads through each song on the record, easily putting the listener into a virtual 1960’s or 1970’s hotel lobby with a cocktail in hand. It is certainly a mood-release; layered but reserved in comparison to past releases by the Sheffield, UK quartet.
Quite honestly, it’s a bit difficult to find the “Monkeys” in this offering. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino comes across more as an Alex Turner solo project than an Arctic Monkeys record. There are some fun bass lines (i.e. “Tranquility Hotel Base & Casino”, “She Looks Like Fun”) and some sparse distorted guitar (i.e. “Golden Trunks”, “Four out of Five”, “Batphone”), but the usual prominence of Matt Helders’ drumming is almost non-existent. The snare drum taps along in the background of almost every track, serving well as part of the rhythm section but offering little in personality. If it wasn’t for a few Beatles-esque drum fills, one might assume the band programmed a kick and snare in software and called it a day.
Piano and organ lines are heavy in use and mix, serving as the main instrument throughout. Rock n’ Roll has made way for lounge-y jazz, and Alex Turner’s vocals show him as more of a crooner than a rock singer… backed by layered harmonies. Turner’s lyrical style and sultry voice have always sort of hinted that it might be well suited for that sort of genre anyway.
Where previous Arctic Monkeys albums had their ups and downs; louds and softs; Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino rides comfortably at a 3/10 on the energy scale, every once in a while extending to maybe a 3.8. There is certainly a theme and vibe here, which is pretty cool but it certainly makes this new release something fans will only bother to spin on their turntables once in a while when the mood strikes.
It’s also quite short for a five-year absence. Eleven tracks, most of which barely break the three-minute mark.
Bottom Line: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a smooth, jazzy, worthwhile set of difficult-to-remember tunes that perhaps serves best if re-branded as “Alex Turner & The Arctic Monkeys”. If you’re in the moody mood for some neo-lounge, accompanied by Turner’s trademark stream of consciousness narration, then this one is for you. If you’d rather hear a bit of rock n’ roll, some innovative guitars, catchy melodies — basically anything else that Arctic Monkeys are known for — you’re best off reverting back to your iTunes collection.
Notable Tracks: “Four out of Five”