After a five year hiatus, Sheffield rockers Arctic Monkeys have catapulted themselves into outer space, years away from the locales that inspired their first tracks back in 2006. The band have cleverly pivoted through each era, from scrappy upstarts on their early records, desert dudes on ‘Humbug’, to ultimate rock gods on ‘AM’. Their sixth album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is Arctic Monkeys like you’ve never heard them before, and is perhaps one of the most divisive albums of 2018 yet.
The album begins with ‘Star Treatment’, with a sound that couldn’t be more distant from the band as we knew them when they broke through just over a decade ago. This is more of a David Bowie style – an indie rock response. Most tracks on this album favour the piano, creating a lack of noticeable workable choruses but instead features a more leisurely laid-back vibe. ‘Golden Trunks’ and ‘One Point Perspective’ are also similar in this sound, and reinforce this new era.
The band that once prided themselves on being apolitical has joined the club and injected some very topical flare into their new tracks. ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ isn’t full of songs about love or sex as their previous records are; this is an album embedded in the political and social climate of 2018. The world is messed up, so instead, we’re getting songs about technology, political tension, and dystopia. ‘American Sports’ and the aforementioned ‘Golden Trunks’ are particularly overt, and contain references to US President Donald Trump, “The leader of the free world / Reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks.”
One thing that hasn’t changed going into this new offering is the band’s clever lyricism. Alex Turner has been using and adopting some of the weirdest and strangest combinations of the English language. The album may be less rock and more political, but nevertheless, it still contains titles such as ‘Batphone’ and ‘Ultracheese’, reminding fans that Arctic Monkeys are still the same to the very core.
‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’ is very theatrical in its production, and includes Turner‘s natural musicality. Although it’s not an album that you can head bang and rock along to like ‘AM’, it’s more of a grower, and one that you need to listen to more to shed and unveil what it can truly offer. It’s the kind of album that will keep pushing boundaries until their next release, which will no doubt be completely different yet again.