I remember a quote by Oscar Wilde from my formative years which has always rung true in the world of art and music.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
Whilst not exactly mediocre, the Arctic Monkeys have released their sixth studio LP as of last Friday and the throng of journalists and fans alike who appear to be lining up with the one thought. It’s sounds just like a Bowie record. Whilst this may be true in some respects, I’ve found it to be a bit harsh on the band because Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is much more than a band morphing into one of their idols. The album is a definite switch away from their traditional sound which has left some fans puzzled and scratching their heads. Still, you gotta respect a group for taking a more ballsy approach and not becoming stagnant and dated in sound and vision. Like Bowie before him, Alex Turner is well aware of the need to constantly evolve and move into new areas and that is certainly what he and his band mates have done here. Still, to label the album a pure slice of Bowie-esque indulgence is not doing Tranquility Base Hotel& Casino justice. Upon first listen, one is left a little surprised, bemused and even excited by the new direction. Admittedly, the more, shall we say, “chav” base of Monkeys fans will obviously be bitterly disappointed to not get what they have in the past however, if I am being brutally honest, who the fuck wants to please the chav crowd anyway? They’re all bell ends who just follow the trends anyway.
In parts, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds like a chorus of estranged jazz musicians who have decided to break way and record a rock album but just can’t ride clear of their jazz roots. Think of it like this. Imagine if Duke Ellington was alive today and decided to record a contemporary rock album. His only problem is this. He keeps allowing himself to be drawn back into his comfort zone. That’s kind of how I feel about this album. You kind of know where the band want to go but not quite sure if they can make it all the way.
Yours truly could sit here and dissect the album tracks one by one but I think you are best left to come to your own valuable conclusions because Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is not your typical modern album. More than any other LP released in recent years, it’s a vast step away from the norm and you will assuredly need at least four to five spins before getting your head around proceedings. This is a good thing in our current age of processed pop for the masses. For me, on a personal level, it sounds like a band moving forward into uncharted waters, yet they are still not too sure where they are headed but excited by the potential. It’s almost as if they are a group of young pilgrims getting together for the first time. That’s what makes Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino such a riveting ride.
So what are you waiting for? Should you have been foolish enough to be put off by the early and incredibly unjustified criticisms of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, you have, thus far lost out big time. I mean, you could always go back to listening to the back catalogue however, you run the risk of being stuck in that time warp which happens to so many thirty somethings and beyond who seem to think music has never been as good as “back in their day” which is what I hear far too often from the punters today. Sure, the frequency of quality music may not be at the level it once was yet, by closing your eyes on the future, you are going to be missing out on so many fantastic albums in the process.
So what can you do aside from getting stuck in said time warp? This is exactly what you should do. Continue to evolve as a human being and do yourself a favor by listening to Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Chances are that you may not like it at first but I promise you, it will quickly become an album you can’t put down. And may the Arctic Monkeys long continue to grow and release interesting albums. Even if they do slightly morph into their heroes in the process.