Review: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

The Arctic Monkeys came into my life around ’05-06, as a burned copy of the UK version of Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, that a friend pressed into my hands with the urgency that defined all of our musical exchanges back then, and which I’ve found absent from life as an adult. Alex Turner, then younger than I am now, sang about Sheffield lechers and cuddles in kitchens and fake record executives and running from suburban British cops – nothing I could claim to understand. But it’s undeniable even today: that first album articulated something about hitting the peak of puberty in a post-“Mission Accomplished” world of continual, ever-visible, but mostly ignored war; of ringtones; of . It made our former interests in Lil Wayne seem merely dilettantism and our enthusiasm for Linkin Park look embarrassingly adolescent. And Alex Turner’s croon has continued to undress desire, vapidity, hypocrisy, ennui, ego, loneliness, and obsession on every album since.

AM (2013) was a grime-glam parade of hits, the album that was just as meaty, fast, and infectious as their debut, but with the benefit of maturity, confidence, an L.A.-noir aesthetic, and dark 90s hip-hop vibes. The songs will continue to pop into my mind for the rest of my life. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino follows a tough act well, but not triumphantly. It proves the band is still culturally relevant and ready to dare – and Alex might even be at the height of his lyrical abilities – but it’s too much of Alex’s subconscious, not enough pop magic. I reviewed the album for The Skinnyread it here.

It will be interesting to see how these songs, mostly absent pop hooks but dense with the atmospheric noise of collaborators, will hold up live (apparently on a set Alex designed himself, while working on the cardboard model on the album’s cover). I caught the Monkeys in Toronto in 2013 and Lewiston in 2014 (and saw Alex with The Last Shadow Puppets in Manhattan in 2016). I’ll be seeing them again this summer in Canandaigua. You can count on reading about it here.

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The Last Shadow Puppets at Terminal 5, Manhattan

By the time the Arctic Monkeys’ fifth studio album, AM, was released in September 2013, Alex Turner had established himself as one of the most compelling frontmen in rock and roll — though perhaps not for the usual reasons. Suddenly, he was channeling a bit of Jim Morrisson’s brooding croon, pulling off Jaggeresque sashays, and doing more with his hips than anyone but Beyonce. But, no matter how much WD-40 he seemed to have sprayed on his hip labrum, the whole pomaded AM aesthetic seemed a bit too polished and rehearsed to be really rock and roll.

Cue Miles Kane. The pair collaborated as The Last Shadow Puppets on 2008’s The Age of the Understatement, and though they’d created a sound basically unlike anything else in the twenty-first century pop/rock universe, their relationship as musicians and as pals took a few more years to reach maturity. These guys are best mates — evidenced, for example, by that video of them flailing at a Strokes concert — and maybe you can only be as loose and goofy and, well, yeah, rock and roll, as these two are Tuesday night at Terminal 5 in midtown Manhattan if you’re playing with your best mate. It helps if your tunes slay and if you have a decade-old audience of worshipping fans, which these two do. You could say that New York’s invisible stars were aligned for an amazing show tonight.

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