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CD of The Week

Week of 5/14/18

    Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino (Domino)

    Over a decade ago, Arctic Monkeys burst on the UK indie rock scene with boundless energy, witty lyrics and fast-paced guitars. They inspired a million British bands in their wake but kept growing, evolving and building an impressive discography of tunes. On 2013's AM, they had their biggest breakthrough in the States, with the moody, R&B-tinged "Do I Wanna Know?" and "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" giving them smash hits in the U.S. at last. Five years later, we have a new Arctic Monkeys album and it's certainly not what anyone would have expected as a follow-up to AM.

    Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is a loose conceptual record about an outer space hotel and inspired by frontman Alex Turner writing on his new piano. Turner certainly has his talent for clever, sharp lyricism on display. Of course, you're going to get everyone's attention off the bat when the first line on the album is "I just wanted to be one of The Strokes / Now look at the mess you made me make." The song, "Star Treatment," is apparently about an aging sleazy star who now plays at the hotel & casino (and uses pickup lines like "What do you mean you've never seen Blade Runner?"). "American Sports" and the title track also explore this world Turner has built, as does the single "Four Out of Five" (as in a 5-star hotel)

    "Golden Trunks" jumps out at you as it's clearly a take on Trump, who of course claims to know about hotels & casinos. Turner sings that "The leader of the free world / Reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks." It's not particularly original at this point to compare Trump's personality to a pro wrestling gimmick (and he is unfortunately already in the WWE Hall of Fame).

    However, Turner's lyrics can easily get lost in Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino due to the musical choice he's made. The whole album essentially feels like one long song, as these keyboard-led lounge-rock musings completely blend into each other with almost no choruses, hooks or guitar riffs. At some point, the words can't hold your attention anymore when the music itself is so same-y. It's also essentially a solo record or is at least closer to Turner's side project The Last Shadow Puppets. The record just feels like the rest of the group is just there to back up his piano ramblings.

    Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino hearkens back to artists in the '70s and '80s who were allowed to make artistic left turns, then bounce back with some more hits soon after. (Neil Young was infamously sued by his label for making an experimental album that they didn't think sounded like Neil Young.) Of course, albums were released much quicker back then…so hopefully we won't have to wait five more years for a new Arctic Monkeys record.

    Arctic Monkeys headline night 2 of the Firefly Festival in Dover, DE on Friday, June 15th.

    **Donate $20 or more to Y-Not Radio to receive a copy of Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino on CD. Click here for details.
    Review by Joey O.

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