If Kubrick and Bowie collaborate to produce an album
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
Genre : Lounge Pop
Length : 40 mins 51 secs
Release : 11/05/2018
Label : Domino
Rating : 3.5 out of 5
I still remember when I first heard that the Arctic Monkeys, a band from Sheffield formed after Alex Turner watched The Strokes perform in a concert, are distributing free CD copies of their demo Beneath the Broadwalk to their crowd in a gig. For a moment I was filled with regret being born here where I was stuck in the bleak tuition rooms for every scholastic subjects (even English course book and grammar separately) and where guitars are a luxury or an infamous sign of academic degradation. We were toiling inside the classrooms while the Arctic Monkeys were making history becoming one of the first rock bands to be popularized through the Internet. They were famous even before releasing their debut album. Gaining a huge following by releasing their songs on the Internet, dating way back in 2004, the Arctic Monkeys have come a long way since then. Their initial albums were spectacular. The sound, the lyrics, the aesthetics and all, shaping themselves to become who they are now. They are marked in music history after their debut album Whatever People say I Am, That’s What I’m Not became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history. After a series of album release and tireless music-making, they took a hiatus after their 2013 album AM, which induced them to further mainstream popularity and gain a wider audience. Their fans wanted them to work on another album. They attained maturity at best, with Suck It and See and AM. There were many “fan pressures” circulated online as they waited for more than 4 years to witness another record by the band.
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, the 6th studio album of the Arctic Monkeys was released on the 11th of May. Excitement and lengthy queues before record stores prevailed. The name of the album was grand in its own right - styled as Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. Exclusivity strengthens by the fact that singles were not release for promotion. Domino knew that it would sell well. The odds were low provided the fact that it was not just an album but it was Arctic Monkeys’ much awaited album. But was it all worth it? It depends. Their fans segregated into two streams. One appreciating the new sound; and the other disappointed at their unexpected sonic metamorphosis. It was unexpected, not unpredicted. Frontman Alex Turner announced that the album was not going to be heavy guitar oriented like their earlier works, but the fans kept on hoping for an AM sequel. This phenomenon reminds us of what happened to Radiohead fans after their transition from OK Computer to Kid A. Arctic Monkeys are not making songs for their fans anymore, alright. But still, their transition is not so great either. The graph of their change in both sound and aesthetics is a sudden uphill length almost perpendicular to the base, which when translated in real life is difficult for us to hold on to. A postpunk revival rock band singing lyrics that about average British teens’ nightlife and sex, changing into an elaborate stage act calling for theatrics with lyrics about sci-fi dystopias and introspection is a true “Kafkaesque” metamorphosis. While their change in style and lyrical content is appreciable, their new sound, on the other hand, is not so appealing.
The Good : Some facts remain stagnant in the music realm. Musicians who are getting mature often tend to write more “politically inclined” (I also wonder if this phrase is politically correct or not) lyrics. Such is the case of Alex Turner as the principal songwriter of the band. The lyrics of the album examine the aspects untrodden paths, abandoned dreams, complications of fame and introspection, wholly narrated with ease from the perspective of a female protagonist; something David Bowie would venture with pleasure. The album itself is Bowie-esque resembling his Ziggy Stardust phase. The big picture is that, TBH&C is a concept album that depicts a dystopian future where the moon is colonized, gentrified, and turned into a lunar resort for washed-up rockstars. The narration is done in a stream of consciousness like Joyce did with old Dublin. The orchestrated nature and the vivid description of the retro futuristic lounge and the “taqueria on the moon” gives the album a potential adaptability into a Broadway rendition of some sort. The official video of the song “Four Out Of Five” seems to be a direct inspiration from works of the legend, Stanley Kubrick. The use of the orchestron keyboard in many of the songs is perfect in building up the atmosphere. The self-reflective nature of the lyrics compliments the ongoing vibe of the tracks.
The Bad : There is nothing that is remotely catchy or memorable in the track listing. Yes, the line, “The leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks” is hilarious but where is its value? After all, it’s an album, not a poetry collection. In order to present the phonetically complex lyrics, the songs are devoid of memorable tunes. The “spoken word” style presentation does not suit the aesthetics of the album. The lack of guitar work is disappointing. Arctic Monkeys are not themselves anymore. This drastic change is not appealing, as far as their sound is concerned. If the album was in their old postpunk sound, then people would have appreciated more at how Alex Turner mocks the Yorkshire dialect in the song “Golden Trunks” by singing “himsen” instead of the word “himself”, and they would have sung it in every garage jams. This album lacks the “wow factor” and carries no hype to be talked about. A blunt listener will not be able to distinguish many of the songs due to the deficiency of uniqueness in them (the bluntness counts too).
The Verdict : The album would have done well as an Alex Turner’s solo venture. His earlier Submarine EP was very impressive. TBH&C would have enjoyed the same fate. The song “Ultracheese” is the secret ingredient of the album. It carries an early 60’s easy listening vibe and a comparatively upbeat sound; something which the overall album sorely needs. Let us not hope for a sequel in their next release.
(Ningombam Captain is the creator of the comprehensive review blog, Blue Bannerman Reviews. The writer is currently pursuing English Hons. in MS University, Vadodara. For reviews, Blue Bannerman can be contacted at the official facebook page and will cover critical analysis of songs, books, movies, and local eateries.)
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