It’s the most hotly anticipated album of the year, and also the most divisive. For fans expecting an AM sequel, they got a Humbug sequel instead. Five years on from AM’s triumph, Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino is the Sheffield quartet like you’ve never heard them before.
“I just wanted to be one of the Strokes/ now look at the mess you made me make,” sings Alex Turner on the opening track, ‘Star Treatment’, inviting listeners into a fantastical, dream-like journey. “I’m having a word with myself,” he confesses; unsurprising considering the closeness this album comes to being an Alex Turner solo album. These are undoubtedly the most self-aware lyrics to date, taking on religion, (“emergency battery pack just in time for my weekly chat with God on videocall), technology (“my virtual reality mask is stuck on ‘Parliament Brawl’) and politics (“the leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks”). It’s an endlessly quotable album and has some classicism that The Last Shadow Puppets – Turner’s side project with Miles Kane – aims for. It’s a strange and seductive song cycle and one that unfortunately for most fans, won’t be their favourite.
For many, it’ll be hard to judge whether the album is a glorious step forward or a bitter disappointment. It’s clear the band have found a new identity in Los Angeles, since Turner appears to have completely tuned in to big American themes. The music itself resembles a space-age jazz lounge, favouring vintage strings and synths over Jamie Cook’s electrifying guitar riffs and Matt Helder’s legendary drumming. Intimate piano arrangements also appear to replace catchy choruses of the past.
Before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the moon in July 1969, they landed at a pre-arranged site in Florida, which Armstrong named ‘Tranquility Base’. We all know the rest. It’s clear, however, that this album is a giant leap forward. But to where, exactly?
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was released on 11th May under Domino Recording Company.
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