Arctic Monkeys: New album different but essence remains

BY Luis Castilla

The Arctic Monkeys are back after five years with their new album “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” and it’s quite a mesmerizing experience. Alex Turner, frontman and principal songwriter, has taken the reigns almost entirely on this album.

Ditching their guitars for synthesizers and vibraphones, there is a very noticeable shift away from rock ‘n’ roll and into a more grandiose form of music.

This is the Arctic Monkeys’ long awaited sixth studio album and it has some fans asking “Where’s the guitar? What happened to the drums?

The Arctic Monkeys have changed up their sound for each of their albums, but this is by far the biggest musical change they’ve ever made.

Courtesy of Domino records

In case it wasn’t obvious from the name, this is a concept album about opening a hotel on the moon.

The 11-track album is much less guitar heavy than thei previous albums and more of a piano-driven lounge session in space.

The drums aren’t as fast-paced or as flashy as they used to be. The bass lines are melodic and the guitars have been almost entirely dissappeared.

Favoring farfisas, organs and vibraphones, it’s clear the only direction their music could take was straight up to the moon.

The opening track, “Star Treatment,” starts off with the lyrics “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes,” a humble reminder of their roots, as The Strokes were their idols growing up. This track, like many others on this album, sounds deceptively lo-fi, but is actually quite polished.

There is a clear David Bowie inspiration but way Turner sings on some of the tracks gives it a hip-hop feel. It sounds like he’s channeling his inner Frank Sinatra on the tracks “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip” and “Batphone.”

There are still a couple of tunes in there for those who prefer the Arctic Monkeys’ old sound. “Four Out of Five” would fit seamlessly into their previous album “AM,” with its heavy guitar riffs and booming bassline. “She Looks Like Fun” has a nice balance of bombastic choruses and mellow verses.

“Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” isn’t as rock ‘n’ roll as their previous albums.

In a BBC Radio 1 interview, Turner said, “The guitar, it sort of lost its ability to give me ideas.” Turner wrote all 11 songs at his home in Los Angeles, but was afraid that his bandmates would be underwhelmed by them.

The other band members have given Turner full control for this album.

Jamie Cook, the band’s guitar player, listened to Turner’s demos for the album, he was on board, telling Rolling Stone “I was blown away by the direction Alex had gone in. It took a few listens to even begin to, like… It was just, like, ‘Shit. What do we do with this?’”

Drummer, Matt Helders, had to adapt to Turner’s new direction however, saying “Every time we’ve made a record before, I’ve always wanted to do something completely original, like a drum beat no one’s ever thought of. This time I settled down a bit, realized it’s not about me, it’s about playing for the songs.”

All in all, this might be one of the most divisive albums of the year. It doesn’t sound much like the Arctic Monkeys, but rather an Alex Turner solo album.

Turner himself has said that he was never interested in making “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” a solo album.

With this new direction being as far from their old sound as the moon is to us, however, one could only wonder if this might be the last Arctic Monkeys album.

The band have never been shy about trying something new. They are a band that can’t stay in one place for too long and that’s exactly what you want from a band.

The reason this wasn’t a solo album is because Alex Turner needs the Arctic Monkeys as much as they need him.

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