It’s cosmic irony that the way forward for Arctic Monkeys has been to ditch the thing that made it an international success, to stop building songs from the feisty guitar riff on up and instead start constructing late-night vampire soul music using a piano Turner received as a gift for his 30th birthday.
What Turner has done in the process of writing the band’s new Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is far weirder than a simple shift in studio gear.
Tranquility works hard to converse with its reference material, and in the more lucid moments of a lyric sheet that comes on at first as abstract poetry, you begin to see the implication that the ruined universe of the album is an indictment of the real world of 2018.
Tranquility’s taste for loose funk and open space doesn’t resemble much of anything in the Arctic Monkeys universe, barring the monster-truck song’s whiff of the same ’60s pop values Turner pursued with Miles Kane and James Ford on the first Last Shadow Puppets album.
On Tranquility, bass, piano, and airtight vocal harmonies lead melodically, while guitars mostly serve as decoration, except in “She Looks Like Fun,” the lone semi-traditional rock song, which is played more like a crude Frank Zappa parody of a rock song than an earnest go at the kind of music fans of the last Arctic Monkeys album surely came here expecting.
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino offers neither the trademark sound of Arctic Monkeys nor the heartfelt, sentimental songwriting that has endeared the band to millions.