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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Album review: Arctic Monkeys take a giant leap in a laid-back, Moon-inspired direction

Indie rockers lay down their guitars five years after their last album

Arctic Monkeys. Photo by Zackery Michael
Arctic Monkeys. Photo by Zackery Michael

It’s been almost five years since the Arctic Monkeys’ seminal indie-rock opus AM. Those who remember the band for that record’s enormous rock-out riffs and driving, urgent rhythms, which won them legions of new fans stateside, or indeed for earlier works such as the punky, good-time fuzz rock of I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor or Fluorescent Adolescents, will be in for a surprise on Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.

From the opening piano notes, it becomes evident that Alex Turner and co have gone lounge, appropriately enough given the album is named after a fictional resort by the Sea of Tranquillity on the Moon.

There’s barely a guitar to be found, and the riffs and shoutalong choruses the band were once loved for are absent, too, replaced largely by tinkling ivories and Turner’s soaring croon. Vocally and musically, Turner takes plenty of cues from fellow Moon-lover David Bowie, and there are also hints of the dulcet vocal tones of Billy Mackenzie, particularly on the title track.

It’s an intriguing step forward, and one that not everyone will approve, but despite the more laid-back vibe, the band sound like they’re having great fun – no mean feat in itself, 12 years since 2006’s debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

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At the same time, it’s also a step back in one very welcome way – Turner has reverted to singing in his native, Northern English vernacular, rather than the affected American rock drawl he adopted at the time of the last album, and this allows his cheeky lyrics to shine through as they did on earlier albums. Lines such as “Dancing in my underpants/I’m gonna run for government/I’m gonna start a covers band an’ all” simply wouldn’t work in rock drawl.

The album is a definite change of pace, but thankfully not of quality. It will be intriguing to see how the band incorporates the new material into their usually blistering live show.

Arctic Monkeys

Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino (Domino)