Worth a Thousand Words: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys: Monkeys. In. Spaaaaace. Released: May 11, 2018 Label: Domino
The last monkey that went to space was a Rhesus aboard an Iranian vessel in 2013. Now, that payload didn’t include the Arctic Monkeys, but it looks like they found their way up there all the same. Their newest release, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, shows that they may have never returned, and instead set up shop among the cosmos.
Returning from a five-year stint since their fifth studio album, 2013’s AM, the Arctic Monkeys mark a change of scenery and tone, jumping from the ambiance of a smoky, quietly-lit house party, like some tracks on AM conveyed, to a room with a view atop a hotel ballroom on the lunar surface. Tranquility Base is a concept album; the concept being a near-future where humankind has finally left terra firma and made it to our closest celestial neighbor, the Moon. Alex Turner dreamily soliloquizes about adventures among the stars as if he was a lounge singer at this fabled Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. This album draws parallels to some of David Bowie’s work from the early Seventies, such as “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust.” Just as the late, great singer did, the Arctic Monkeys take us on a journey through the stars, showing us how the other half lives, albeit in a different setting.
Opening with the “Star Treatment,” Turner sets the scene, introducing himself as washed-up lounge singer, left with few possessions, including a monogrammed suitcase, fantasizing about a golden age long past, one where he got “a little too wild in [his] 70s.” Missed opportunities and shortcomings lead us to believe that the main character is near the end of his residency at Tranquility Base and is recounting to his audience about how fame and fortune, on Earth as it is in the universe, can leave you wanting more, giving a double meaning to the phrase “star treatment.” “What do you mean you’ve never seen Blade Runner?” Turner asks incredulously on this track, which, if anyone here has seen Blade Runner 2049, could easily fit into the background of almost any scene.
“One Point Perspective” gives a quick look inside the psyche of our singer. Dreams of grandeur are what he’s longing for, but he’s only seen the world through rose-tinted glasses at this point. There’s a darker side to the time he’s living in, with its “... economists... thirsty for blood.” He feels the world is distracted from the real issues, blinded by the pursuit of money and shiny promises that obscure what’s really happening, which he’s fallen victim to as shown by his repeated apologies for losing his train of thought. A beautiful transition as the end of the song leads us into “American Sports,” where our assumptions of dark happenings in the world are confirmed by the main character who finally gets to see the full picture after losing most everything apart from his suitcase that was mentioned in first in “Star Treatment.” Painting a vision of a future gone awry, the public is fed false news and led to believe what their overlords want them to see via virtual reality apparatuses, scarily similar to our current environment.
The title track of this album, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino,” takes us inside the fabled establishment. Like in AM, this song and the album have undertones of lust and desire, this time backdropped over a space-age setting instead of a house party in the UK. The hotel appears to be an escape for Earth’s citizens who are looking to escape to a utopia, but there’s something not quite right lurking below the surface, as evidenced by the mentions of going on benders, singing protest songs, and letting out your dark side.
“Golden Trunks” has a semi-menacing tone to it, again touching on desire, and corrupt public figures, with a semi-subtle nod to some of the United States’ current leadership, who parades around like a “wrestler wearing tight, golden trunks... [who’s] got himself a theme-tune...”
Next up is one of my favorite tracks of this album, “Four out of Five.” The sci-fi heavy future Alex Turner has been describing so far gets even more detailed, as he describes a weekend out on the town on the Moon, a new experience perhaps for the youth of this future. Not too dissimilar from current nightlife on Earth, clubs and restaurants fulfill the need for entertainment of Moon denizens, apparently to most everyone’s liking, hence the 'four out of five' rating.
The latter half of the album levels out, with some drop in the tempo and in increase in the level of strangeness associated with the names of the songs on the album, i.e. “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip,” “Batphone,” or “The Ultracheese.” But then again, in this version of Turner’s imagined future those names may not be so farfetched.
All in all, I believe this may be one of my favorite Arctic Monkey albums in their catalog, right behind AM. If AM makes for good ‘get it on’ music on Earth, then Tranquility Base would serve the same purpose for outer space. The first space tourist, in our current timeline, will be heading to the Moon soon enough, so be sure to start saving up for your ticket now.
 Condliffe, Jamie. Iran Just Sent a Monkey Into Space. 28 January 2013. Website. 24 October 2018. <https://gizmodo.com/5979441/iran-just-sent-a-monkey-into-space>.