Recently, at the age of 39, I got my first tattoo. It’s a killer tattoo and I love it. But, it’s a pretty big one, is visible at most times, and is a very distinctive design — all placed on my average, at-times-straight-laced-at-times-hipster-looking, button-down-and-khaki wearing body. I got it in stages on my arm over the course of this past winter (long-sleeve weather) and am now on the cusp of a summer’s worth of ‘reveals’ to anyone outside of my inner circle.
This brings me to Arctic Monkeys’ new album. Like me with my tattoo, the band is trying out some different and new stuff. And, they’re getting some looks.
“Where’s the guitar-driven, punch-me-in-the-gut rock that I know?”
“This isn’t you.”
“I’m bored. No riffs and no hooks! This is crap.”
“What the hell did you put on your arm?!” (oops, this one is mine from a family member).
In reviewing this album, I like how NPR’s Robin Hilton put it. Paraphrasing, he said that anytime an artist does something unexpected or veers away from their usual style/medium/genre, they afford themselves space — space to innovate, create, inspire themselves and others, and generally re(define) or blow up any context they are in. Perhaps it won’t all work out, but it’s worth doing and there’s often gold to be found.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is surely less guitar-driven/focused than their past work (Alex Turner composed most of the songs on piano). It’s generally slower, more brooding, not as twitchy or frenetic or loud. However, I personally hear a lot of elements that seem naturally evolved from their last album, AM. Somewhat cosmic, at times a bit shimmery, anchored in heavy bass lines, and with an syrupy, lounge vibe that I love.
I’ve listened to this record a lot since it’s release and I like it. Maybe it’s the tattoo talking, but I like the newness. I like that they took a risk and demanded to be heard how they want to be heard right now. I like that they are commanding and driving their own art. Time will tell if I listen to it as much a few months from now, but that’s on me — not on the band or the music they set out to make on this album. Good on ya, mates.