REVIEW: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a dreamy, otherworldly album

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the sixth studio album by the English indie rock band Arctic Monkeys. In a complete departure from their previous sound, the tracks on Tranquility are ethereal and transcendent. Courtesy of Domino Recording Company

The Arctic Monkeys’ latest album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino combines masterful vocals with dreamy, smooth instrumentals, complete with crooning lyrics sung in lead singer and frontman Alex Turner’s signature Sheffield accent. Released on May 11, the 11-track LP is almost a complete deviation from the British indie rock band’s earlier works. Unlike their 2013 album AM, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is nearly devoid of emblematic anthems, heavy guitar riffs and traditional rock elements. Instead, it seems to suggest a warping of time and space, revolving around futuristic piano sounds and breezy lyrics that make it a smooth listen.

Considered by critics as the Arctic Monkeys’ most daring album to date, Tranquility was written in Turner’s home studio in Los Angeles, which he calls the “Lunar Surface,” a reference to Stanley Kubrick’s conspiracy theory of the fake moon landing. The album was crafted on an upright Steinway piano gifted to Turner for his 30th birthday, interweaving concepts of sci-fi, outer space, technology, fame and politics through pointed lyrics and velvety instrumentals.

The song lyrics are lilting and ethereal, transporting listeners to a state of wonderment. The album’s first track “Star Treatment” opens with the lines: “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes / Now look at the mess you made me make / Hitchhiking with a monogrammed suitcase / Miles away from any half-useful imaginary highway / I’m a big name in deep space,” making vague allusions to pop culture and telling of strange journeys to fantastic worlds beyond our own. The lyrics appear to be written as a stream-of-consciousness,  forcing listeners to carefully analyze implicit messages and meanings throughout the introspective work.

On“Science Fiction,” Turner sings, “The rise of the machines / I must admit you gave me something momentarily / In which I could believe” with the chorus “I want to stay with you, my love / The way science fiction does.” The words once again adhere to the overall sci-fi theme, set in the eponymous virtual moon casino. In an interview with Pitchfork, Turner said the deliberate choice to discuss an outer world was informed by his understanding of the current world we live in. Thus, the exploration of a surreal intercosmic space became the focal point of his social commentary. Few lyrics repeat themselves and the songs appear to have been modeled after the convoluted, ever-changing nature of space. Despite their unconventional lyrics, the Arctic Monkeys’ sixth album delivers a transcendent sound. Perhaps Turner’s intent wasn’t for listeners to understand, but rather for them to enjoy Tranquility as an immersive sonic experience.

One can only imagine Turner lounging in a spacecraft bar wistfully musing over the existential affairs on Planet Earth, analyzing the current state with a critical — and often cynical — eye. Unpacking his lyrics proves to be no easy task and listeners can only speculate what exactly Turner aims to critique through his cryptic selection of lines.  is expertly polished, slow with a twang, and experimental, tapping into each listener’s inner psyche. It is also a transformative take on the Arctic Monkeys’ widely-known sound, ultimately providing a fresh comeback for the band after a three-year hiatus.