“I don’t like it, man. I just can’t get into it. It’s too lounge-y for me. It’s like a solo album, or something…”
“Yeah, it took me a few listens, but then I was hooked. It’s a phenomenal album, man! You need to listen again.”
Waiting in line to get into Forest Hills Stadium, in Queens to see Arctic Monkeys, I was privy to a bunch of friends debating the merits of the band’s latest album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Their sixth album, it really is a sonic step-away from the previous tracks released by Alex Turner and co. As Pitchfork notes, a “left-turn if ever there was one,” with Turner swapping “witty sleaze for absurdist suave.” 2013’s AM just hit all the right spots with its perfect rock album sensibilities, its opening questions, its urgent riffs, its pugnacious lyrics. On the latest album, the rest of the band guitarist Jamie Cook, drummer Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley, sound very much in the background of Turner’s crooning and out-there musings. It’s definitely more of a cerebral listen, and that’s not a bad thing.
For the most part, the tracks on Tranquility played out well across the stadium crowd last night, eliciting a sea of this century’s version of lighters in the air, flashlights on cellphones. As someone who’d never seen the Sheffield band before, experiencing the likes of R U Mine?, Do I Wanna Know? and, I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, of course, was a joy and I found the tracks just as rollicking played live as I’d hoped they would be. Even though Turner’s long locks are now gone.
The Monkeys did a cover of The Strokes Is This It? in lieu of a “tennis song” as an offering to the stadium where the US Open used to be staged. It was a delightful surprise, but very much in keeping with the band’s homage to the early influence the NYC royalty had on them, as acknowledged in Star Treatment‘s opening line: “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes.”