A few years ago one of Alex Turner’s friends gifted him a piano, and for the first time in his career, he set aside his guitar. He holed himself up with it and became obsessed, thus beginning the course for a piano driven Arctic Monkeys album. I imagine this process unfolded with Turner hammering out disconnected bits and pieces on the keys while speak-singing and rambling… which is actually a genuine way to describe how Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds in its depth. The decorative and rhythmic additions from his bandmates along with a high brow studio recording make the record more of a whole, cohesive thing.
Although shallow in musicianship, when Turner opted for piano over guitar he shed that god awful Cage The Elephant-esque wash heard on their 2013 release, AM (which, if there is anything worse than naming a band Arctic Monkeys, it’s creating an acronym of it for an album name). Influences like Franz Ferdinand and The White Stripes are now a whisper, and instead Turner pays homage to his associates within a sort of lyrical monologue, “I always wanted to be like the Strokes/Now look at the mess you made me make.” At times pretentious and obnoxious, he maintains an authenticity throughout, and long-term Turner fans will appreciate a rare vulnerability woven into his prose.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is written as a sort of soundtrack to a lunar space station lounge, Turner even referred to the studio as “The Lunar Surface.” (try not to roll your eyes). The record is reminiscent of quirky elders like Spacehog and Super Furry Animals—honestly it sounds more like Edwyn Collins scored a low budget musical for a seedy nightclub somewhere on future Mars. Maybe where all those rad mutants hung out in Total Recall. Hopefully. I might be making this sound cooler than it is, actually. And fuck where has Edwyn Collins been lately!?
With a discography drenched in influence derived from his peers, Arctic Monkeys have written something refreshing and weird, more their own, but not quite original—yet. Consider it a curveball thrown into AM (ugh) space, floating in an orbit a little bit closer to the sun.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino comes out on May 11th.