Easy living at the Tranquillity Base
Since AM the Arctic Monkeys have been an All-American rock outfit. With their sixth, they pulled another of classic's rock's moves. They played the "album as big event”. The whole idea being that at the end of a previous record cycle the band all but disappears, lingering half-forgotten until arising from the blackness riding the triumphant high of a new epoch. Tranquillity felt it, even before a single song had dropped.
It stands on AM’s shoulders. But it’s not rock ‘n’ roll. Tranquillity is Hollywood, showbiz. LA, The Wrecking Crew, ‘Hotel California’, Sinatra and Bowie’s Young Americans. A slow burner divesting itself of all the attention-grabbing requisites of the streaming economy.
It takes a little focus. Turner and company are directing listeners to the idea that yes, this is, in fact, an album. It’s asking the listener to kick back and slide into this band’s fantasy.
Turner’s vocals and lyricism are front and centre. His deliveries arrive a composite of Paul Weller, Julian Casablancas, Bowie, whichever Beatle you want, and a thousand other musical heroes all gelded onto his own idiosyncratic rap. He plays the confessional lush, straddling the theatrical and the morose.
A thematic of stifling fame and creative paralysis colour Turner’s jive. It can work against things in places. Al has too much inherent pep – cheek - to croon his way into the contemplative melancholy and intensity of say The National’s Matt Berninger. Or, dare it even be said, Jim Morrison.
But Alex can swagger. Like plastic soul era Bowie, he devours US culture in all its husky romance. Tranquillity is dark but it’s more theatrical than gritty truth. From the opening soliloquy of ‘Star Treatment’ – a mix of half stolen hooks from The Style Council’s ‘Long Hot Summer’ and Lennon’s ‘Mind Games’ – it’s seductively slow moving.
When they do push into focus instrumentals come sprawling and atmospheric. ‘Golden Trunks’ guitar lines! Could we have a few more of those? ‘Four Out of Five’ pivots the record toward some much-needed momentum. It’s got push. It knits the album together. For all its possibility here it makes sense.
Objections aside - and some fans are going to level them - this group carries an air of invulnerability. Tranquillity no doubt snakes blissfully between higher energy moments of the Arctic’s live set. But presented here it’s a complete musical statement.
There’s no kowtowing. Its grandiosity rings true. But at times a thought turns to the high impact kineticism of Monkeys past. The dense frenzy of ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ blared out automatically on Spotify after the album’s closing moments and this heart all but exploded.