The long awaited sixth Arctic Monkeys album has certainly been divisive, if nothing else. Long time fans expecting to hear their classic sing-along, witty, indie anthems will be disappointed, with this new album establishing a new, more mature era in the life of the band.
The latest album from the Sheffield lads has extraordinarily managed to split fans straight down the middle in the way only Marmite can. The first track, ‘Star Treatment’ seems to highlight lead singer and songwriter Alex Turner’s motivations behind the band’s new sound, with the opening line: ‘I just wanted to be one of The Strokes, Now look at the mess you made me make.’ This album is very much Turner’s creation – he wants the chance to show off his skills as a successful and famous songwriter whilst distancing himself from the young lad from Sheffield who wrote indie dance tracks.
‘Star Treatment’ eases fans into this new genre gently, with it’s style of lyrics reminiscent of ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ from their last album ‘AM’ in 2013. However, this is the first taste we get of the sci-fi like vibe of the rest of the album. ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is Bowie-esque in its vocals and lyrics, and with its eerie quality, it is not hard to understand why this track became the title track of the album. This song epitomises the new sound of the Arctic Monkeys.
Its title stresses Turner’s ambitions for the album’s success, as Tranquility Base was the name given to the site of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing in 1969. This connection also goes some way to explaining the space-like theme of the entire album. It is hard to single out a ‘hit’ track from this album, but ‘Four Out Of Five’ has emerged as a favourite amongst many, maybe because it is closest in style to the more familiar Arctic Monkeys’ sound of their past few albums. Its classic Turner lyrics and its rocky feel reassure fans that this new evolution of the band does not mean they have forgotten their roots. ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’ is possibly the most unidentifiable track on the album at the outset, but each verse and chorus alternates with a more recognisable section. This track, along with ‘She Looks Like Fun’ demonstrates the band’s abilities to fuse both their old and new sounds together to create songs that are incredibly easy and interesting to listen to. With many of the tracks on the album being created from bold statements and Alex Turner’s musings on life and the universe, the final track, ‘Ultracheese’, eases us out with a return to the more romantic side of the indie icons: ‘But I haven’t stopped loving you once.’
‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is undoubtedly a new direction for the Arctic Monkeys, but it is fair to say that their old style and new are two sides of the same coin. Although this album is definitely more smooth and Americanised in its style and lyrics, Turner throws in the occasional ‘summat’ to show the band has not forgotten their Yorkshire heritage. The new album may be harder for most of us to connect with than previous albums, but it certainly conveys Turner’s immense skills as a songwriter, and his ability to successfully tackle a new kind of music. It is also unreasonable to expect a relatable album from a hugely successful, internationally renowned band who are now living the high life in California. For those who do not like the new album, or are not willing to give it the credit it deserves artistically, it is time to accept the Arctic Monkeys for who they have become since their success, and appreciate ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ as the first album in the next incarnation of the band.