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Is anyone else worried that ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’ is the last album from Arctic Monkeys?
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From the moment Alex Turner first opens his mouth on ‘Star Treatment’, with that line “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes, now look at the mess you made me make”, past tense and singular subject glaringly conspicuous, it’s immediately clear that ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ is taking Arctic Monkeys to a place that they’ve never been before.

Instead of the lurching guitars, slinky rock & roll and hip hop influences that defined 2013’s AM, it’s a deeply different, immersive experience that very nearly ended up as an Alex Turner solo record.

Even on first listen, it’s clear why that almost happened – this is Turner taking centre stage in a way that he’s never quite managed before. Trading riffs for the tinkling ivories of his Steinway piano, Turner has taken the Monkeys into lounge pop territory, the crooner and the listener are king; the band fade into the background. And as such, it’s a record that inadvertently raises questions over the future of one of Britain’s most enduringly popular bands.

If ‘AM’ was characterised by the powerhouse drumming of Matt Helders, Tranquility Base couldn’t be more different – he’s here relegated to background fills and an unexpected experimentation with synths. It’s a similar story for guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Nick O’Malley, who provide a slinking, cinematic edge to Alex’s album.

Star Treatment, a song by Arctic Monkeys on Spotify

Alex Turner has never sounded more itchy about being in a band, more ready to make the jump into the great unknown – and ‘Tranquility Base’ proves that the next natural step could be a solo career.

Despite being subtly complemented by Cook, Helders and O’Malley, ‘Tranquility Base’ sees Turner crafting a glorious glimpse into a world where he alone is king. In the intervening years since ‘AM’, Turner recorded a second record with the Last Shadow Puppets and, seemingly, retreated to splendid isolation to work up a project that wasn’t necessarily intended for his day job band.

There’s something rather telling about the way that Jamie Cook first reacted to hearing what Alex Turner had been cooking up at his Los Angeles home.

Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys

“I think at first, because it was quite basic – piano, vocal and no guitar – Al was in two minds about, ‘is this Arctic Monkeys or am I going somewhere else with this’, Cook recently told Mojo.

“And maybe at first I was a bit like that as well. It’s not definitely not a guitar-heavy record, not typically what we’d do. It took a lot more thinking about.”

Turner’s apparent self-questioning says it all – he’s on the way to establishing himself as a solo performer, even if he’s not quite aware of it.

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All considered, don’t be surprised if ‘Tranquility Base’ proves to be the final hurrah from a generation-defining band at the very peak of their powers. We’re not in Sheffield any more, readers.

11/05/2018 19:21:51
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