By JackOh The Arctic Monkeys, we meet again. We’ve never quite seen to eye, you and I. Pub rock belongs in the pub after all, with the beer farts and red faced old men. But then, something happened. You released AM, an album which is indisputably a rock masterpiece, a riff-driven album of sheer lip-curling attitude. That was a surprise.
This is an even bigger surprise. Tranquility is by far the biggest head fuck of the year. How exactly do you dismantle a rock band? How do you take a hugely popular Northern rock band, favoured by polo wearing #lads who enjoy a Nandos and a warm tinny and cruising in the Corsa, and completely destroy that band and all it stands for?
Tranquility destroys the Arctic Monkeys on a molecular level. Alex Turner goes full Thanos. He pulls on his shiny glove and vaporises anything constituting an ‘Arctic Monkeys’ sound with a pinpoint plasma beam. I haven’t seen the movie, no.
Such wanton destruction of a band – a brand at this point – is somewhat reprehensible, since that band or brand is at its commercial and critical peak and legions of young fans, eager for well worn chord progressions and lyrics about girls at bars, will absolutely despise this fucking album.
However when the land is razed so thoroughly, the ground salted and nunneries ravaged so carelessly, it’s hard not to be impressed by the gob-smacking levels of wanton devestation.
Where once Alex Turner was a sarky but wide-eyed lad, taking in the minutiae of everyday English life, here he’s a wizened old sage. He’s 32.
Turner spends Tranquility casting off vagaries with whimsy. While this album swims in detail, getting a grasp of its true intentions is almost impossible. Irony underlined AM‘s more biting moments (‘R U Mine’) but here the under-shading has become a top level gloss. You can’t see past it, you can’t see through it.
His bandmates (presumably at gunpoint) indulge his excursions into Wes Anderon territory. Descending keys are all over this thing, as are meandering bass, jazzy beats and Eastern verve. The lyrics, meanwhile, are sheer madness, and not as clever as they think. “I’m so full of shite!” exclaims Alex Turner over the weirdly Germanic, nigh on polka of ‘She Looks Like Fun’. “There ain’t no limit to the length of the dickheads we can be” he says, earlier in the same song.
There is one lyric that rings true – “I’ve played to quiet rooms like this before“. Expect the room, the 30,000 capacity room, to be very quiet when you play this, and very loud and very relieved when you play ‘Mardy Bum’ directly after.
On the down side, I don’t think this is going to go over well with…anyone. But I sort of like it. And despite what anyone says, this album can conceivably be compared to Sgt. Peppers. Only distantly, but that isn’t bad going.