This album is Arctic Monkeys as we’ve never seen them before… but, when has Alex Turner ever played by the rules?
He’s taken us all to space on a rocket fuelled by dream sequence lyricism and the element of surprise, and it’s going to be hard to come back down.
Concerned with isolation, technology and fame, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino invites us into Turner’s mind, hopping and skipping through one fantastical reality to the next, and begging us to come along for the ride.
Turner has defied expectations yet again by creating a Bowie-esque space narrative. It’s certainly not another album of singles you can press shuffle on and learn the words in time for a dirty indie night down your local northern club. It’s also not an album of ‘alreets’ and ‘darlings’ in that seductive Sheffield drawl — it’s bouncy, dreamy and seems a natural stepping stone in Turner’s creative aesthetic, after the success of The Last Shadow Puppets’ Everything You’ve Come to Expect and the 50s brill cream stint of AM.
‘Star Treatment’ tip-toes us into the recesses of Turner’s musical flare: “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes, now look at the mess you made me make” Turner croons in the opening lines, as he holds the door open for the listener. “Who you gonna call? The Martini Police” might be one of Turner’s best lyrics in my opinion, as he reflects on a former self. “Maybe I was a little too wild in the 70s” — we always knew he was a time traveller.
‘One Point Perspective’ and ‘American Sports’ further deepen (or confuse?) Turner’s ‘train of thought’, whilst the title track lays out his creative space. The rest of the band dabble in dreamy keyboards and softer drum beats for Matt Helders, as his harmonies are put to the test in this challenging attempt at a 70s trip.
Don’t feel too alienated from previous Monkeys material, however: ‘Four Out Of Five’ reimagines that familiar Turner drawl that captured us all in the first place, whilst closing track ‘The Ultracheese’ is the closest to a traditional Monkeys ballad we get to on this record.
‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Batphone’ take an interesting stab at technology, and it is clear to see the popular culture which influenced Turner during the writing process. He flirts with God ‘on video call’ and science fiction films dominate: ‘What do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?’
This is where Arctic Monkeys divide people with a concept album. The theme of space and technology may be too much for some who prefer the Sheffield brawls or even the brazen rock’n’roll of the fifth record.
Pack your bags kids, Alex Turner, starman, has returned to Earth and invited us to listen to his tales. And what a privilege.