It was an afternoon on the verge of swelteringly hot when I opened Spotify a month ago alone in the front seat of the bus. And right in front of me was the new Arctic Monkeys album that was waiting to be listened to. It was finally here after "AM" and though it had only been five years, it felt like an eternity had gone by.
I had absolutely loved "AM" the moment I listened to it for its amazing songs and melodies that I could always dance to. So when I opened the first song I saw named "Star Treatment," I was expecting catchy guitar riffs and drums to be blasting in my ear.
That was definitely not what I got.
Instead, I heard a slow, swingy song that was completely unlike the pop or rock sound that had defined the Arctic Monkeys for their last few albums. It was a gigantic reversal of what I had known them as, and my first thought while hearing it was, "What is this?"
So now, after listening to them repeatedly for this last month or so, I feel I am (barely) qualified to write my opinion on this album. And my verdict?
Well, I think it's really cool.
"Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino" is chilled and laid-back in contrast to the old, faster-paced songs by the Arctic Monkeys. It's a much more introspective album where Alex Turner reflects on his past, his stardom and issues the modern world brings. And he does this by singing from the perspective of a lounge singer in a hotel on the moon. Have you ever heard of a cooler album concept? It's based on a frickin' moon hotel!
Apart from that, the Arctic Monkeys really demonstrate the artistry and creativity they're capable of through their new music. Normally, I can't really make out the words in songs except for little snippets I usually end up misunderstanding anyways. And this album was no exception. But after I googled the lyrics, I realized they were absolutely phenomenal. There were so many little, thought-provoking phrases just from the first song of the album.
I had always known Alex Turner was a good lyricist. He could twist and arrange every little word into flowing lyrics I could only describe as quaint, loopy or whimsical. And "Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino" still had that Alex Turner style to it but with an added depth to it that wasn't there before. Perhaps it's because he has matured. Anyhow, I can't imagine him singing, "Don't you know an apparition is a cheap date?" on "AM" five years ago.
I still really like "AM" for its awesome songs, but it lacks the depth that I've seen on "Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino." Their last album was definitely more geared towards mainstream music consisting of danceable, catchy beats and structured melodies. And while I think "AM" was creative in its own way, with the band exploring different instruments and music styles, the lyrics about love were cool but just your standard set of words.
"Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino" definitely revealed a new side of them that I had never seen before. It felt like Alex Turner really put himself out there. And though it was still quite refined, the content of their songs seemed more real than their last two albums. I appreciate the amount of courage it took to completely reverse everything "AM" built up and release something completely new after five years of anticipation from fans.
However, others don't seem to agree. "Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino" has got to be one of the most controversial Arctic Monkeys albums ever with many long-time supporters put off by their new sound.
I've heard people say that it sounds horrible, that it isn't the Arctic Monkeys and that it isn't music. And it's completely understandable. All people are entitled to their own opinions and preferences. However, I think the people complaining about it are just a little surprised that it isn't anything like "AM." If you go into "Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino" fully expecting it to sound like that, obviously, it's going to be disappointing. But if you listen to it with an open mind and appreciate how the Arctic Monkeys have evolved, it's probably going to blow your mind.
This album was definitely something of an acquired taste for me though. I can't say I fell in love with it at first sight. However, I was intrigued by how different it was and kept listening. And in the end, I found myself wanting to hear more. Sticking to it definitely helped me further understand and admire the Arctic Monkeys as a band. Otherwise, I might have been part of the group of people that hated their new music.
I will admit, I didn't enjoy every song on there like I did with "AM." But it's one of my favorite albums for another reason. I like it specifically because it's different. I feel like as a fan-base, we should respect the Arctic Monkeys and the fact that musicians need to change as they grow older and mature. Fans were supposed to be a musician's supporters because they like that person's music, but it seems like these days, they are becoming the thing that holds the artist back and prevents them from changing or trying new things.
When an artist experiments with something new, there will always be people that call for more of their original content. Alex Turner makes an interesting observation when he sings, "Four stars out of five, and that's unheard of." Because these days, you can't get everyone's approval or a perfect hundred anymore. There will always be people who dislike what you do.
However, the most memorable pieces of music are not always the ones that everyone loves but the ones that are the most groundbreaking. At least, I for one think the Arctic Monkeys are taking a revolutionary, new approach to their music, and I'm excited to see where they go with it in the future.
And for those who didn't like their new album, there are always other bands to move on to, there are always other albums to wait for in the future and there are always old albums to go back to!
But I suck at describing music and can only do so much. I definitely recommend listening to the album and forming your own opinions on it if you're into less mainstream, poppy music. And while you can't dance or jump to it like you could with "AM," all the songs on their new album will definitely make you want to sway or groove. My favorites are "Star Treatment," "One Point Perspective," "Four Out Of Five" and "The Ultracheese."