14th May2018

Culture Dump #34: Whatever You Say Artic Monkeys Are, That’s What They’re Not

by Simon Bland


Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the sixth studio album from Sheffield quartet Arctic Monkeys hit listeners’ ears and immediately split them down the middle. Some were left grinning and chin stroking, admiring yet another deft surprise from the band’s smirking frontman Alex Turner. Others meanwhile were left wondering when the stadium-sized indie anthems the band have become known for were going to kick in. That latter group had a long and ultimately fruitless wait. Whatever you thought Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was going to to be, this certainly wasn’t that.

Although surely that’s to be expected, right? Look at Arctic Monkeys today and they’re almost unrecognisable compared to the scruffy indie-lads that burst onto the scene in 2006 with an endless supply of earworm hooks and mile-a-minute lyrics delivered in an overtly Northern twang. That record alone got so much airplay at the time that it quickly cemented itself as a definitive new wave Brit-rock classic, paving the way for similar acts whilst simultaneously birthing a brand new music scene. Fans ate it up and came to expect more of the same from these four lads from Sheffield. The band? They had other ideas.

Each album release has been a gamble for Arctic Monkey fans – and with each the band has tried their hardest to change identity. From Turner’s greaser look for the 2013 unveiling of AM; complete with shades, leather jacket and slicked back quiff, to the mod-look of Suck It And See and their new long-haired European film star guise donned for this recent release – each collection of new tracks has come from, arguably, a completely new band. However isn’t that what all bands who withstand the test of time do? The Beatles, Radiohead, Blur – All three have transcended to legendary status and all three have universally dividing back catalogues of work and starkly changing personas.

Those original indie fans stuck around for the ride though, patiently awaiting the return of the band that gave them ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ while selectively filtering out the records that might not have provided the same rush (Humbug, we’re looking at you). Meanwhile other indie acts filled the gap, crafting a hit-formula with songs that can often be distilled into easily yelled sounds or football-adopted chants. The Sheffield lot returned to reclaim their crown five years ago with AM and its radio-friendly feel but now they seem to be at it again, itchy to throw their fans off the scent. Imagine the scene: crowds of eager Arctic Monkey fans at midnight Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino listening parties, patiently waiting for the band’s next indie ‘banger’ to drop. Hopefully, someone brought a pillow.

That said, it’s hard not to enjoy the whole thing. With wild new track titles like “The Ultracheese” and “The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip”, you can almost hear the grin on Turner’s face. Clearly, they’re in on the joke – and we should be too. After all, it’s no coincidence that the record that defined Arctic Monkeys with fans was literally titled Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. Good bands don’t have time to get comfortable and the clues have been there all along.

Did you enjoy Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino? Let me know in the comments below!


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