Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino: album reception
Two days ago, Arctic Monkeys released their 6th studio album to date: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. It was the news that had most divided the nation since Brexit and people haven’t been afraid to express their feelings about it online. Because the album has split everybody’s tastes and expectations, it would be unfair for me to write a review that represents even just my split view alone. Therefore, instead of a complete critique, this is a commentary on the reception of the album in 2018’s pop culture society.
There is no doubt that every Arctic Monkeys album has a different sound and a completely different ‘theme’ to the last, and those supporting the band took to Twitter to reinforce the idea that as a band matures, their music will too. Just like any other human growing older, experiences change, and what was once a band that wrote lyrics about drunken fights on the streets of Sheffield, are now a band that are expected to create music on the events that the band are experiencing now. After their previously released album AM, Tranquility Base is an album that continues the maturing pattern, but to an extent that makes Arctic Monkeys’ genre questionable. Their latest album showcases a sound that is psychedelic, futuristic and almost dystopian with repetitive synth riffs and ‘spacey’ vocals, leaving a sound that is reminiscent of Alex Turner’s parallel band: The Last Shadow Puppets.
Although the band’s sound has changed over time, there has been a residual ‘rock’ sound in every album, that has defined them as a rock band. However, Arctic Monkeys show difference in Tranquility Base where there is little to associate with their expected genre of music. Is it wrong to expect rock music from a rock band and be disappointed when it isn’t given?
Arctic Monkeys leave something to be desired in switching up their sound when their fan base is expectant of a certain type of music. Creating different music is necessary in the movement of popular culture and the band took the risk of putting theirs into the musical void. Maybe it isn’t the sound that the band have adjusted to which has caused the split in opinions, but instead the lack of variant throughout the album.
All of the songs on the album hold the same vibe with the help of the space-like synth riff that advertised the album, yet many people have argued that this makes every song sound the same. Admittedly, when I first listened to Tranquility Base, ‘Four out of Five’ and ‘The Ultracheese’ were the only songs that were memorable in any shape or form and the rest all blurred into one, (even though they too sounded like they were just slightly different versions of the track before.) Arctic Monkeys are no stranger to slow songs as demonstrated by ‘Piledriver Waltz’ or ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’, but even then, they feature as breaks between other varied paced songs on their albums. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is consistent in its secluded genre, but also its tempo, vocal sounds and rhythm which has led to opinions of it sounding ‘boring’. The tone of Turner’s voice remains the same through every song, as does Helders’ drum pattern, and the repetitive synth riff that was present in the teaser videos arguably becomes tiring after the 5th song on the album. Again, the band’s new sound splits opinions when some find the repetitive nature of the album boring and lacking in ‘Arctic Monkeys spirit’, while others find it an abstract masterpiece and an unexpected success.
Radio DJ Greg James expressed his positive opinion on the album on Twitter:
Tranquility Base proposes two conflicting responses to the album:
- The album is enjoyable to listen to the whole way through because of the consistent sound and the understanding of the vibe that Arctic Monkeys were aiming for, however,
- a single song on a mixed-up playlist will be easily skippable because of its unexciting sound.
- The odd song played at Arctic Monkeys’ Autumn UK tour will be magical and well-received
- but too many songs (especially consecutively) may become tiresome.
To understand the response to the album more broadly, I created an anonymous Twitter poll that mainly represents people in the age range 17-24. Over 24 hours, 102 people voted, and the results are as follows:
“Best album ever made” – 2%
“Good album – different” – 38%
“Not that special – ‘samey’” – 30%
“Really bad album” – 30%
Although the biggest percentage belongs to the statement “[Tranquility Base is a] good album”, 60% of people voted that the album is either “not that special” or “a really bad album”. The total number of voters have been almost equally split three ways, just proving the subjectivity of the album and the divided response of a very small pool of listeners.
In conclusion, whatever opinion you take on Arctic Monkeys’ new album, their movement for the future of music is exciting in one way or another. My tiny piece of research just proved how subjective music is, and just because you like the band and their past music, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to love everything that they create. Follow the wise words of Arctic Monkeys themselves and “don’t believe the hype.”