5 years after the smashing success of AM, Arctic Monkeys return with a strange celestial commentary. It seems like lead singer, Alex Turner, has spent the past half-decade keeping a keen eye on modern society, along with watching more than a few sci-fi movies. Full of imaginative diction, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino centers around a fictitious lunar lodge as the front man goes off on everything wrong with his life and modern society. Yanking the listener right in with the somber declaration “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes”, the band starts off the first few tracks looking at the current state of their lives and the world through pessimistic eyes. At its core, the album is driven by the complex lyrical narrative. The simple yet effective production consists only of basic drum taps and simple riffs, which fit well with Turner’s ominously gentle vocals.
The album hints at an exodus down on planet Earth, with “Science Fiction” dropping a line about a Terminator-style machine uprising, a brilliant metaphor for how the group thinks technology is dragging down the human race. Because of this, we are confined to living on the moon. The trippy standout “Four Out Of Five” serves as an advertisement for the titular hotel. Very slow in tempo (much like the rest of the album), the concept of the hotel itself is explored through consumerism, opening with the usual “start your free trial today” and closing with repetitive assurances the hotel is worth it, scoring a “four stars out of five”.
In a theme that’s been seen so much in music lately, the Arctic Monkeys get political on “Golden Trunks”. The title leads into comparing the U.S. president to something as fake and cartoony as the WWE. It’s also obvious Turner isn’t a fan of politicians flipping their stances on issues, calling them “Bendable figures with a fresh new pack of lies”. At this point, taking jabs at the leader of this country is practically a given, but the song seems necessary to include for the purposes of the album’s concept.
Any cynical breakdown on the modern culture isn’t complete without a bashing the negative effects of technology. In that light, Turner rants like a baby boomer at the Thanksgiving table: “She Look Like Fun” paints the Internet as a dog-eat-dog world where anyone can say anything, and “Batphone” disses the general public’s reliance on cell phones. It’s an angry but realistic portrayal, and a fitting piece to the general idea of Tranquility Base.
In the end, Arctic Monkeys’ new LP is a very different approach from what we’re used to seeing from the band. Gone are the days of headbanger anthems that popularized the group, so longtime fans may be understandably disappointed by the slow and at times, similar-sounding songs. However, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino dips into a new side of the British rockers’ catalog. As an album driven by the lyrics, this seems to have more depth than their older works. It isn’t for everyone, but the poetry weaved throughout the 11 tracks make an enjoyable introspective journey into Alex Turner’s mind.
SCAD Radio gives Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino an 8/10.