Dear Arctic Monkeys, You Can Disappear Again

The Arctic Monkeys are back, but they’re worse than ever.


Nicole Shaker, Staff Writer

After releasing no singles and leaving it up to the fans to build all the hype for their long-awaited sixth album, the Arctic Monkeys surprisingly and unfortunately fail to deliver. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a collection of eleven mediocre tracks that sound pretty much the same. It’s been five years—you’d think they would have come up with something a little less monotone. The album is a sad attempt at space-age jazz and is all-around forgettable.

The one thing that makes the slow songs sometimes bearable to listen to is the thoughtful lyrics, which are more psychedelic than what the Arctic Monkeys are generally known for putting out. The title track, more than any other, truly showcases this spacey, thoughtful vibe. Verse One commences with, “Jesus in the day spa, filling out the information form/ Mama got her hair done, just popping out to sing a protest song/ I’ve been on a bender back to that prophetic esplanade/ Where I ponder all the questions but just manage to miss the mark.” This may be a metaphorical commentary on current society, as a religious figure in such a common setting may be implying that nothing is sacred anymore, and protests have become so common that going to one is on par with getting your hair done. The song aims to be profound, and the lyrics have potential, but it just manages to miss the mark, no pun intended. Alex Turner’s vocals attempt eccentricity through extreme annunciation, but it just doesn’t work. He’s trying too hard to step into a genre that does not suit his band.

The album does have a few highlights, with the second track, “One Point Perspective,” being chief amongst them. This song, unlike many others, has an air of effortlessness, while fitting into the fluid, vaguely jazzy style that Turner and his band are trying out. The lyrics of Verse One are as follows: “Dancing in my underpants, I’m gonna run for government/ I’m gonna form a covers band an’ all (stop)/ Back there by the baby grand, did Mr. Winter Wonderland say/ “Come ‘ere, kid, we really need to talk”?/ Bear with me, man, I lost my train of thought.” This last line, which is sung in the perfect tone by Turner, is repeated as the last line of the song, which gives a funny cyclic air to this very mellow jazz song. Much of the song is instrumental, which the listener doesn’t mind as much because it doesn’t feel lazy. It’s easy to listen to.

The true highlight of the album is jazz ballad, “Four Out of Five,” Track Six. Here, Turner attempts that weird annunciation vocal technique again but actually manages to pull it off with the aid of a strangely catchy dark beat in the background. Vocally, the song begins with a random “ooooh” which is unexpected but showcases Tuner’s magnificent high range, something that is overlooked in this album. His voice goes deep and mysterious again with Verse One: “Advertise in imaginative ways, start your free trial today/ Come on in, the water’s lovely/ Look, you could meet someone you like/ During the meteor strike, it is that easy/ Lunar surface on a Saturday night, dressed up in silver and white/ With coloured Old Grey Whistle Test lights.” The lyrics are typical of the album, but the song truly stands out with the bridge and chorus, which slow it down and get rid of the beat to make way for a smooth guitar and Turner’s vocals interspersed with powerful background singers in every other line. The song is kind of risky, but the result is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, although it’s great and certainly worth a few listens, “Four Out of Five” could not reach its full potential under the Monkeys’ reign. It gets characteristically lazy by the end, which is just an unbearable repetition of the chorus. The chorus is great, but the effect of it is lessened by the unthoughtful production.

Most other tracks are quite forgettable, but “Golden Trunks” (Track 5) and “Science Fiction” (Track 8) hit the mark enough for a mention. “Golden Trunks” is a standout because the instruments sound a lot more electronic and the vocals are uniquely executed by Turner, uncharacteristically showing off his falsetto. The chorus is pretty great, with a catchy beat and good transition between the verses. It’s one of the better-executed songs on the album for sure. “Science Fiction” is good because of the lyrics, which are psychedelic but sing-along-able, and the overall instrumental execution. The one slight issue is the very indistinguishable transitions between verses and chorus, but that might have been intentional; in any case, it doesn’t matter much for the song, which is pretty good for this album. The one thing Turner might need to work on his mumbling, which takes away from the thoughtfully written—though slightly overused—lyrics.

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is weird for the Arctic Monkeys, to say the least. It shows the band trying to become something that they are not, and that is a huge letdown for their loyal fanbase, who were expecting a revival of the old, rocky sound that made the Monkeys and attracted their first fans. The album is unique, but is it memorable? No. Turner could not deliver vocally in many tracks and the production was, as a whole, quite lazy. Considering it took five years for them to release an eleven track album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is disappointing, unsatisfying, and quite possibly the Monkey’s worst album to date.