Got baggage? Just leave it
Coming back after five years, Arctic Monkeys kindly let themselves into their audiences’ rotation with Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, an honest, easy 11-track effort. Lead vocalist Alex Turner dabbles with singing and talking and shares his tasteful mixture of the two in nearly every song on here; it’s either talking in a way that’s more attention-holding than regular conversation or singing in a way that calls for a breath from normal melodic dancing. He’s meant to be a storyteller, and the rest of the band supports him in a casually surreal fashion. They have found a way to subvert real life while sounding like a semi-ordinary indie rock band. Admirable.
As should be the goal for most albums, Tranquility Base presents a consistent feel throughout while offering songs that are distinct from each other. The lullaby jam sesh that is “Star Treatment” differs enough from “One Point Perspective,” a tune greeted by metallic-sounding piano and flourished with distorted guitar and synth strings. Opening with the former is a sensible choice even though it’s the longest song on the album. Most ‘longest songs’ find themselves as the penultimate track or the closer, but by the second listen it’s clear that the song order for this project was well-picked.
Pent-up anger and an appreciation for Bram Stoker’s work are some of the guests in the title track, and “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” has the potential to be included in a Tim Burton movie soundtrack. Perhaps if there was a live-action remake of “Hotel Transylvania,” Arctic Monkeys could help score the film. Criticism is in the air in the pair of “Golden Trunks” and “Four out of Five,” if only subtly so. The former mentions “the leader of the free world” in the midst of its guitar-driven rage. The latter is a turning point for the song’s character, formerly preoccupied with how others perceive him/her.
“Batphone” is a contestant for a video game soundtrack thanks to the harpsichord coloring Turner’s vocals, which, in this particular tune, are especially pleasing as he flexes in his falsetto range. But if there was one point in the album in which his singing mattered the most, it’s track three, “American Sports.” Brace for heartwrenching each time he gets to “And I never thought” – the kind of musical moment that will cut a nap short just to soak in his well-spoken beauty. The lead-in for the song is low-key, sounding like a second half to “One Point Perspective,” the track before it. It may not sound like a revelation of an idea, but it surprisingly makes the entire two minutes and thirty-eight seconds (of course the best song is also the shortest) seem like a dream sequence or a feeling of “I can’t believe this is happening.”
From front to back, there’s only good music to be found at this inn, so come and stay for a while. Leave that baggage by the door and enjoy this momentary step out of reality.