Let’s get this part out of the way first. Yes, Arctic Monkeys now sound like Bowie. Yeah, we know. Yes, it also reminds you of Gainsbourg ballads, and yes, there’s something a bit Pet Sounds about it too.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino has been a mere five years in the making and indeed feels like a coming of age for the Yorkshire four piece. The lead single Four out of Five is an icon for the rest of the album; sultry and smug, with Alex Turner’s gentle humour keeping his chatty lyrics afloat despite things feeling a bit “samey” after the first 20 minutes.
That being said it’s not at all unpleasant to be transported to their lunar accommodation while listening to these retro creations. Instrumentally classic with an authenticity that evokes images of velvet upholstery, dim lighting and a heady mix of cigarettes and Elnett, each song feels like a life story recited by someone who wears their aviators indoors. The pub regular who’s seen it all and who sold their Ford Capri to Farah Fawcett’s agent. You know the guy.
The production pays special attention to detail, which is the Brasso on the doorknobs and really ties the entire album together. The tracks are short and, surprisingly, they aren’t at all self-indulgent; She Looks Like Fun harks back to the emergence of the prog era, while The Ultracheese seethes with melancholic nostalgia and is a fitting (if not abrupt) close to a very vinyl-esque creation. Style over substance it certainly isn’t. It’s smart, well-crafted and feels entirely legit – consistent with the band’s first two albums.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a time capsule that carries some comfort to its listeners. Not since Bowie’s passing have we been this reassured; the new grown-up Arctic Monkeys prove there’s still timeless musicianship out there in the universe. And a reason to wear corduroy flares again.