Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino: New, But Improved?
>> In 2013, Arctic Monkeys revolutionized their sound on "AM". Five years later, "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino" mixes their classic sound with something new.
"Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino" is nothing like "AM". Despite its popularity, Arctic Monkeys don't seem to be bound to its sound at all. Now, this isn't a knock on "AM", but it's refreshing to see a group that's really found their popular niche completely eschew it on a follow-up album. It gives the feeling that, no matter how much fame may have gone to Alex Turner's head, Arctic Monkeys are still just making the music they want to hear. They're not beholden to the genre, the label, or even the fans. They're just here to have fun, and make some music on the way.
One thing that hasn't gone missing since "AM", though, is the absolutely perfect mixing. Arctic Monkeys have an amazingly full sound: bass and treble in perfect balance, instruments in beautiful tonal harmony, and Alex Turner's butter-smooth lyrics over top. "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino" should be used to train recording studios on what a mix should sound like. Every instrument can be easily picked out with the slightest amount of focus, and can instantly drop back in and become part of the band when your attention shifts elsewhere.
Unfortunately, in foregoing "AM"'s sound and genre, Arctic Monkeys have also ignored many of the high points of that album. "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino" goes ten minutes at a time between memorable moments, leaving few tracks as stand-out greats. The band is toned down to highlight Turner's vocals, but he doesn't quite have the gravitas to carry the whole album. The greatest Arctic Monkeys moments are always a point where every person does exactly the right thing at the right time. On "Tranquility", those beats are few and far between.
Unfortunately, this makes "Tranquility" largely forgettable. The tracks blend together without really ever grabbing your full attention. The mixing, the instrumentation, and the vocals make it great background music for your next faux-classy dinner party, but it's never quite engaging enough to be the only thing in the room. "AM" was an album that demanded the spotlight, "Tranquility" seems content with being ambiance.
When "AM" was released, you'd hear people say it "doesn't sound like Arctic Monkeys". "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino" gets the same reaction, but for totally different reasons. This isn't Arctic Monkeys, it's another Alex Turner vanity project. By stripping away more of the band to make his vocals more prominent, Turner also removes a lot of what made their previous albums great. Rather than a follow-up to "AM", this album is a sequel to The Last Shadow Puppets' "Everything You've Come To Expect". If you've come to expect a memorable album, though, you won't find it here. 3.2/5 <<