There's method in keeping us waiting
Sorry everyone, you’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer for a new Arctic Monkeys song. In a lone interview with MOJO, frontman Alex Turner confirmed that there won’t be a single from upcoming sixth album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’. Fans’ first taste of the album will be when it’s officially out on May 11. So, basically, as quickly as your Spotify account will refresh in the wee hours of that Friday morning.
Recording largely happened in secret (no Insta snaps in the studio) and so far there’s been only the merest glimmer of new music, in the shape of this album trailer.
This isn’t the first time we’ve launched ourselves headfirst into an artist’s new era music-less. Radiohead started it with ‘In Rainbows’ in 2007, but Beyonce’s surprise drop of her fifth album on iTunes in December 2013 and Kendrick Lamar’s ‘untitled.unmastered’ in 2016 proved that there’s as much value in the surprise release as a prolonged build-up with hype-boosting practices, like music videos, pop-up shops and interviews.
So ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’ falls somewhere in the middle. We know when it’s coming out and we’re all clearing our day aside to unpick and decode the new album in full. But right now, all the noise from the album comes via the words of the band. They’re framing it just how they want. So maybe, this is for the best. For this album is not ‘AM II’ – this is a completely different beast entirely.
By and large, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’ is set to be as close to a concept album as we’ve ever had from the Monkeys. Sure, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ may feel like listening back to a pocket dial of last night’s shenanigans – but ‘TBH+C’ – partially named after the site of the 1969 moon landing – creates a sense of space like none of their albums have done before. As mentioned in Uncut’s first review, “threads from one song (a lounge singer; Batman; US politics; a briefcase) will show up in another, giving it all an appealing cohesion and mystery”. Sound like we’ll be peering round every corner, looking behind the furniture and lifting up the cushions searching for meaning within every line.
So if the album is truly as cohesive, expansive and cinematic as promised, why undermine that that with a one-off single? It is a bold decision, and one that only bands of a level like theirs can afford to make, but looks set to be a rewarding one. The first time many will hear it will be as a complete, 11-track project – a rare occurrence in the age of streaming and playlists.
Turner and co have built a universe with their album – and the wonder of flinging open that portal will be way more satisfying than a little peak through the window.