Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel And Casino Review

I have been an Arctic Monkeys fan for a fairly long time. Basically, since the same month the debut album dropped. I have bought all their early singles and like all the B-Sides and deep cuts as much as the fan favourite stuff. I still liked the more controversial moments like their Humbug album and the trippy B-sides from the Suck It And See era singles.

Basically; I am not some casual fan who just cares about the big hits. Coming into this record, the band have basically done no wrong.

…And then we come to this album. To the moon. The Tranquillity Base to be specific. Now, I am not a fan of negative reviews. You may have noticed reading this blog, there are ‘its good’ and ‘its average’ reviews in abundance, but not many, if any ‘what a pile of shit’ reviews. I am very much of the ‘’If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all’’ approach to reviews. That being said, this album is very possibly the single worst album I have heard by a good band in a long time.

Don’t take this for me just not liking the band’s change of direction. This album is a bit progressive, a bit psychedelic, a bit dreamy, and very low key. As I said though, I like the band doing all sorts of things. Its not like ‘’Your So Dark’’ from the last album’s B-Sides or ‘’Fire Side’’ from the last album didn’t work with the band being low key. Its not as if ‘’Pretty Visitors’’ and ‘’The Jeweller’s Hands’’ from Humbug didn’t work with the band being a bit Psychedelic. Its not as if I don’t like me a bit of prog now and again or the general sound of this album (sometimes I can pick up little flavours of Caravan here and there).

Its not even as if the theme of a hotel and casino on the moon, and songs from the perspective of different staff and visitors is too confusing or off-putting.  Just look at how many Mastodon, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Queensryche or Coheed & Cambria albums I own to know I am a big fan of concept albums.

No; the problem with this album isn’t the direction or the concept. Its not that it is a departure from previous styles. Its not that it is for serious fans only. The fan is that the songs are uniformly boring. The material uninspiring. The whole album is one-paced, uninteresting and forgettable. It is a samey sludge of un-music that is so dreadfully dull it may as well not exist. If you don’t have laser-beam focus on it you can’t tell when one song ends and the other begins (my wife has been heard to remark ‘’Is this still the same song?!’’ three songs later).

Okay, in fairness; When you do focus as hard as you can, its not all bad… You can hear some flashes of attempted hooks. For example, in ‘Star Treatment’ there is a line that goes ‘’who you gonna call, the Martini-police?’’ that is musically catchy (even if the lyric itself is a bit smug and pretentious). The bit on the title track where he says the title of the album is also good. The single ‘Four Out Of Five’ is kind of decent all the way through and is somewhat reminiscent of their better single from Humbug, ‘Cornerstone.’

But really; you shouldn’t have to dig so deep to apologetically try and find some small sliver of likeability. Compare that to their debut album, where it is literally as difficult to find something NOT to like as it is to name great moments from here, and you can see by just how far this once great band has missed the mark.

How do we explain this terrible dirge of an album? Maybe this album was a response to the huge success of the previous album AM. Maybe the band were sick of playing bangers like ‘Arabella’ for years on end and wanted to do something deeper. Maybe the band have always wanted to make this album and are only now in a position to risk it with near universal acclaim for a decade to buoy their confidence. Maybe they just took a bunch of drugs after hanging around Josh Homme too long and decided to get trippy. Who knows?

All I know is I have listened to this album so many more times than it deserved, constantly trying to get it to ‘click.’ Constantly trying to discovery its hidden depths. Constantly trying to find the good in it. I have tried across several months, in different contexts, with different kinds of music before and after, just wanting something good to happen.

The only thing that happened is that I finally felt allowed to give up on it. This is not a deep a profound work. This is not a slow burn. This is not a grower. This is not even one for hardcore fans only. This is, unfortunately, as much as it goes against my instincts to say so… a pile of shit.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 3 Day 15

Hello and welcome to the 15th day in this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

I’m half-way through the challenge and have not caved in yet. Its been about a week since I last did a write-up. I have been pretty tempted at times to go into town and see what I could pick up… a quick visit to HMV or Forbidden Planet couldn’t hurt, right? NO! Stay focused….

I’ve also found myself drifting onto Amazon a lot. Maybe I’ll just pick up a copy of Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse, what with all this reunion concert stuff in the news…. NO! Just listen to the three Emperor albums in your existing collection idiot!

Well, maybe I’ll just go on Amazon and read reviews of Death’s Leporasy and Venom’s first three albums….whoah, what’s this, “add to basket”?…. Aaaahhhh! Undo, Undo Undo!

“Ok, I’ll just distract myself by re-reading DC’s Final Crisis, since it confused me the first time I read it but now I know more background and might be able to understand more… oh, Green Lantern is kind of cool, Captain Marvel is kind of cool. I wonder if there is a Justice League TV show… oh there is. I wonder if its available on Amazon……..Oh no, not again!…undo, undo, undo!”

I did eventually manage to distract myself by finally cracking open my copy of Dave Mustaine’s autobiography, which I actually received back in December as a Christmas Gift. Great book. I’m enjoying it a lot (despite the homophobia practically seeping through the pages and making me want to wash my hands) and I’ve got through the bits when he was in Metallica, to when he invented Megadeth and all the way up to where they’re just about to record Rust In Peace. Its cool. I never knew Ellefson was a drug addict too. I never knew the backstory of how Jeff Young and Chuck Behler got and lost their jobs. I never realized that Megadeth were almost as bad as Motely Crue for Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll decadence.

This made me go on a gigantic Megadeth listening spree, which is always a good spree to go on, if you ask me. Like Pantera, I never want to go too far without hearing some Megadeth. Its easy to let the bands that you really love go un-listened to when exploring new things, but its always good to just cast off the explorer’s hat and sit down in your favourite country. (What an odd analogy).

I really like rock star biographies and especially autobiographies. I’ve read Marilyn Manson’s one, no exaggeration, at least 20 times. If anyone would care to recommend some in the comments, drop me a line. Is Motorhead’s White Line Fever any good? Are there any good Metallica ones? Is Heavier Than Heaven good? Has anyone written one about Judas Priest? How about Anthrax?

Also, my non-music time can still result in a Metal-spotting news update; I watched the movie Zombie Land on Netflix recently. Metallica and Van Halen tracks were used. Reminds me of spotting Pantera on Orange Is The New Black. Sons Of Anarchy was great for that sort of thing, lots of stuff like Monster Magnet, Clutch, Soundgarden etc.

Zombie Land itself was OK. I like Jesse Eisenberg now, after The Social Network made him seem more than just “we can’t afford Michael Cera, hire someone similar” so just his presence is enjoyable. I wasn’t never a zombie fan and that always put me off trying out this movie. It just seemed like a lazy cash-in on what internet-users enjoyed that year (like if they made a Bacon movie last year). I’ve also watched the documentaries Supersize Me and Food Matters, but you’ll be disappointed to hear that there weren’t any Cannibal Corpse tracks in their soundtracks.

So yeah anyway… the week was going OK temptation-wise. Getting shaky but nothing I wasn’t able to stop when I thought about it. Then comes today…Oh, dear. You know what I just did? I just broke my damn challenge, didn’t I?

At the time of writing, I’ve just received an email about Machine Head tickets going on sale, and I automatically went and bought some straight away in case they sold out… temporarily forgetting the whole “don’t buy anything challenge” even as I was simultaneously writing about it here. Idiot. I should’ve waited until September to buy tickets, and if they sold out by then C’est La Vie.. at least I’d saved money, at least I’d learned discipline. Woops. Well, I guess this challenge is now going to be extended then, to make up for it. Damn. Shall we say another 15 days? A month from today, instead of a month from August 1st? No, today had a purchase in it, so I better make it 16 days. So, on September 15th it now ends. (August has a “31st”).

“Couldn’t have put tickets on sale a few weeks later, could you, 02 Apollo?” “Its not as if Machine Head are going to struggle to sell them out quickly in the UK. Are they now?”

Oh well. Nobody’s fault but my own. Still…. Machine Head tickets, ey? I haven’t ever gotten to see Machine Head before. This will be great. Think of the absolute thunderous up-wards trajectory they’ve been on for the past decade or so! Three absolutely superb albums, a fourth about to drop that seems every bit as excellent. I’m very excited about this. Its not like I broke the challenge by buying an album of Obituary B-sides or something… they say the key to happiness is buying memories instead of possessions. I reckon I’ll remember seeing Machine Head for some time to come.

Or so I’ll tell myself so I don’t look too stupid for breaking the challenge.

So. That’s the temptation and random thoughts aspect covered. What about the whole listening to things aspect of these articles?

B.J

I decided to augment my weightlifting experience today by listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung (hardly an under-listened gem seeing as its one of my favourite albums of all time and I listened to it almost daily for the three years or so after I initially bought it) and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet; which I bought a while back, along with some other Bon Jovi albums, to celebrate the end of my Exams. I’ve not listened to any of the Bon Jovi albums as much as I should have since that purchase, but they still aren’t in the under-appreciated zone yet, even if it is starting to look a bit like they might head that way. They are still in my new-purcahses drawer in the filing cabinet of my brain.

Slippery When Wet is a lot of fun. The hits are excellent. Even “Wanted Dead Or Alive” which I used to hate as a teenager, due to never sitting and listening to it all the way through. I had a gut-reaction of “yuck” and never questioned it. Well, much like the million faces Bon Jovi have seen, it now has rocked me. The only moment that is a bit questionable is the slow ballad “Without Love” which sounds too much like a high-school dance in an 80s movie for my tastes, but that is easily skippable. The rest of it? “I’d Die For You” is a monster. Really enjoyable song indeed. “Wild In The Streets” is similarly fun. I like “Raise Your Hands” a lot too. I certainly wouldn’t mind if this became a regular-listen of mine. Wouldn’t mind at all. OK… its not as heavy as W.A.S.P, or as infectious as Quiet Riot, or as brilliant a guitar-show as Dokken, or whoever else I’ve been listening to lately… but it is a very smooth, enjoyable listen.

The rest of my day has been spent listening to Kings Of Leon and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album because I’m visiting someone else’s house at the minute and they’re fans of acoustic Nirvana and electric Kings Of Leon. Its like how I listen to Arctic Monkeys’ new album AM even more when my girlfriend is round… not everyone can listen to Megadeth and Exodus without feeling a little put-off, but AM is a record no one could find too crazy. That and its awesome. So if you have non-Metal-fans visiting, you can still listen to music you enjoy, without putting on something your companions don’t enjoy. No need to be so Metal that you are just selfish, ey?

K.O.L

But anyway… Kings Of Leon got a lot of flack in the Metal community over the last few years, especially around 2010-2012. Listening to them now, I notice a lot of similarities with Pearl Jam, and sometimes their use of slide guitar or bluesy shuffle evokes a certain Zeppelin-y-ness. I think, yeah… they’re a credible rock act. A real band of actual musicians who write real songs in a room together. Its not some cynical pop music and its not an elevated-above-their-station-by-NME band with one hit single and no substance. They’ve got a lot to offer people who listen to 60s and 70s rock bands, and the less-metallic 90s Grunge-era bands (Pearl Jam, post-Core Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins etc).

I’ve got a lot of respect for them now after hearing deep cuts and songs I didn’t hear-to-death on the radio or in adverts. I mean, listen to “McFearless” with its awesome drumbeat, buzzy production and lead-bass. Until the singing comes in, that could be off of Antichrist Superstar. The intro to “Charmer” has a dirty punk feeling like Bleach-era Nirvana, and when the guitar solo and bouncy beat are going in “Black Thumbnail” they could be Black Country Communion or something… its that old rock done nowadays sort of thing. “My Party” wouldn’t be too out-of-place on Pearl Jam’s Vitology album. I’m not saying that you could mistake Kings Of Leon for Slayer any time soon, and they shouldn’t get on a concert bill with Lamb Of God or anything, but… they’re not exactly Jedward.

But hey, I am a huge Libertines and Arctic Monkeys fan (and a decent-sized Frattellis fan), and most of the people who hated Kings Of Leon in 2010-2012 would see that as a reason not to trust my opinion.

So um, yeah… **Cough Cough** “Death to false Metal, only listen to Manowar” and all that…

Am I credible now?

In honour of my un-Metalness, today’s Top 5s will be of the British Indie bands in my music collection. There aren’t many, but I like them just the same as Testament, Fear Factory or Carpathian Forest.

The Libertines :
1. Good Old Days
2. Never Never
3. The Man Who Would Be King
4. The Delany
5. Skag And Bone Man

Dirty Pretty Things :
1. Bloodthirsty Bastards
2. Last Of The Smalltown Playboys
3. One To My Left
4. Kicks Or Consumption
5. Best Face

Babyshambles :
1. Back From The Dead
2. Fall From Grace
3. A’rebours
4. The Man Who Came To Stay
5. Baddie’s Boogie

Yeti :
1. Never Lose Your Sense Of Wonder
2. Midnight Flight
3. Up And Down
4. Working For The Industry
5. The Last Time That You Go

Arctic Monkeys :
1. You Probably Couldnt See For The Lights But You Were Looking Straight At Me
2. Still Take You Home
3. RU Mine?
4. My Propeller
5. If You Were There, Beware

The Fratellis :
1. My Friend John
2. Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy
3. Creeping Up The Backstairs
4. The Acid-Jazz Singer
5. Tell Me A Lie