“Right then lads, I’ve got a cracking concept for a new album. It’s literally all me with dry, self-aware witty lyrics and some piano in the background. It’s basically a solo album but if we act like we were all involved we can make a few million bob off it each. So, what do you say then, Lads? ….Lads?” This is how I imagine Alex Turners proposal for Tranquillity base hotel & casino went something like. Even the album title stinks like the work of a self-professed musical genius.
5 years after the release of their all-conquering fifth album, “AM” Arctic Monkeys are back. Well, sort of. Their new album, “Tranquility base hotel &casino” may be credited as an Arctic Monkeys album but do not be fooled, this is the Alex Turner show. Everything is focused around his voice and attempted tongue-in-cheek witty lyrics. At no point does this feel like you’re listening to an Arctic Monkey’s album. Now I’m all for bands evolving and changing their sound, trying something new and fresh. But this isn’t that. It would in no way sound out of place as part of The Last Shadow puppets discography. In fact, Tranquillity base Hotel and & Casino could well be 11 songs written by Turner during the recording of Everything you’ve come to expect that didn’t make the final cut.
But by no means is this a bad album, it’s not ground breaking but at the same time you’ll struggle to find an album as complete as this released in the next few years. Had it been released as a solo album or as a Shadow Puppets one I genuinely think I would have enjoyed it much more than I already do. But as we know ladies and gentlemen, context is absolutely everything. Anyone who disagrees clearly hasn’t tried telling a joke at a funeral.
Alex Turner’s attempt of tongue in cheek, dry humoured lyrics doesn’t have its desired effect at times and are so self-aware they end up being horrifically cringe inducing, but I think this is the point so it borders on satirical. Take the opening lines from One point perspective. “dancing in my underpants, i’m gonna run for government, im gonna start a cover band an’ all”. They lack the finesse and wit for it to immediately hit home. This coupled with Turners weak voice coupled with his LA/Sheffield bastard child of an accent throughout means it just comes across as sleazy, which is exactly their purpose. It’s Alex Turner singing about who people think Alex Turner is, and it’s fucking brilliant.
It would be unrealistic to hope for a Whatever people say I am… part 2 when Alex Turner is 32 and he isn’t writing songs which encapsulate youth in the manner that fake tales from San Francisco and the ilk did. In comparison to the past 5 records this is such a nothing album, it has no umph, nothing distinctively memorable and lacks that immediate jaw-on-the-floor impact that in the past has been so synonymous with their work and this is why it has split opinion so much.
There are some very good tracks, “four out of five” comes together perfectly and has Alex Turner’s lyrical prowess at their peak, coupled with a strong finish it really is the stand out on the album and possibly the most complete song they’ve released for a long time. “She looks like fun” has a dark – garagey riff driving it home as it’s backbone and it’s possibly the best Turner’s voice sounds on the album. “The Ultracheese” sees turner at his most self-aware and it is the most fitting curtain call for this beautiful concept of an album. There really are no bad tracks but very few natural stand outs either, everything sounds beautiful and the lack of a killer punch in many places throws such a curveball and the result is something truly great.
The biggest compliment to this album is how divisive it’s been, the worst thing Arctic Monkeys could have done was release an AM pt2 that was universally liked. They’ve tried something different and not everyone likes it, they haven’t stagnated into become another Oasis type band releasing the same album every couple of years.
But I just can’t help this feeling that everything this record, everything Alex Turner’s striving to do has already been done 10 times better by Father John Misty and he’s never going to come close.
Words: Joey Daniel