Absurdly Fascinating!

The popular English indie rock band, Arctic Monkeys released their sixth studio album earlier this month and what a treat it was! The title of the album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, stays true to the quirky and off-beat style the band is known and loved for. The lead vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter of the band, Alex Turner revealed that he had written the album in Los Angeles on an upright piano in his spare room. The name of the album is apparently drawn from the title song, documenting a futuristic moon colony and the exodus that spawned it, told by an assortment of unreliable narrators who can sometimes barely string a sentence together. 

The band undeniably sailed through every musical era, from their unquestionably successful start with their debut album, attaining the honour of being the fastest selling debut album by a UK band, to their 2013 hit album AM that shot them up into everyone’s favourite list. The music in some parts of this new album resembles what some may call an avant-garde funeral band, as Turner drolls on in his surreal way with raw and eccentric vocal pieces. Turner recalls a time when he “just wanted to be one of the Strokes,” a sharp contrast to his earlier nostalgia of ice cream vans, and then slowly drifts into a romantic fantasy about an ex. He then emerges in their back seat, describing himself as a ghost in the rear-view mirror and proceeds to take an elevator down to Earth to resume his “make-believe residency” as a “lounge singer shimmer.” While the whole picture might seem absurd the first time you read or hear it, once you listen to the album and slowly immerse yourself in it, you will be able to step into Turner’s head. You will begin to understand how the lyrics that swing between abstraction and narrative do, in fact, make complete sense. 

Turner later references Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death’s`“information-action ratio,” –the idea that our access to unlimited information has created a debatable international consciousness. In deciding what to care about, we are spoilt for choice, and end up caring a little about everything, rather than a lot about the things that are important. In the song ‘Four Out of Five,’ the “Information-Action Ratio” is the name of a rooftop cafe in Turner’s rapidly growing moon colony. This shows how consumerism can make use of well-known and articulate critiques to sell you whatever you want. One can see a slight insinuation of capitalist ennui, evidently portrayed in a hard-hitting line from the song ‘Batphone’ that goes, “I launch my fragrance called Integrity/I sell the fact that I can’t be bought.”

On the whole, with Alex Turner’s vocal range that goes from crooning to a striking falsetto and instrumentals that can make you lose yourself in the song, the album has made us scream for joy at the poetry formed by simple words that are strung together. ---Tanya Francis