It's been a little while since our last coverage of the Arctic Monkeys and as they embark on the first couple of dates on their Australian tour this week, we thought it right to have a deeper look at their latest offering Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Of course, whilst we may have covered this before in an in-depth review (you can find that here: https://www.untitledblog.co.uk/blog/arctic-monkeys-tranquility-base-hotel-casino-album-review), we didn't actually cover any particular theories regarding its lore or any particular story arc. That's where this article comes in.
First to address is the initial story. Opening track Star Treatment tells us a fair amount into its general theme and nature. There's this initial sense of regret perhaps with the crooning of "I just wanted to be one of The Strokes...." and how Turner, as himself, would have given anything to be part of the band with Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. The main part of the song circles this idea of a lounge singer who was perhaps "a little too wild in the seventies", suggesting that time was the peak of his career and moreover, how he is now a little washed-up, performing as the lead singer of lounge band The Martini Police. Turner himself has said this jazz-club-esque vibe stems from three French films directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and star Alain Delon, one of which being Le Samourai from 1967. This film features a jazz club known as 'Martey's' and it is here where Alain Delon, as assassin Jef Costello kills the club's owner and manager. The song sets the scene for a small, laid-back tour around the hotel and casino, possibly through the eyes of the lounge singer.
The setting is futuristic and after a mass exodus of humans from the Earth - "Since the exodus...." - migration of the population away from Earth is a common feature of science fiction films and novels. Alex Turner, when writing this album, has said that science fiction did heavily influence him. The method of transport is the "Starlight Express", a train from the Earth to the Moon to get people to Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Moreover, the future setting is somewhat dystopian - the lyric "1984, 2019" may possibly refer to the George Orwell novel and the mention of "Blade Runner" only furthers this interpretation. The mention of Orwell is very much intriguing; in my brief reading of "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" by the late Neil Postman, there's a few mentions of an Orwellian future - a "captive culture" as Postman puts it. This is where people's truths are concealed. Therefore, this explains the "hand of harsh reality" being un-gloved during Science Fiction, as people in this contemporary futuristic world, have been blind to the truth and such truths are finally being revealed. A society has been built around the hotel and casino, with Four Out Of Five describing the amenities and attractions that surround Clavius on the Moon - "Cute new places keep popping up/Around Clavius." - Turner portrays how this new society is ever-changing and developing with every new building being constructed and with every new opening, the "old headquarters" become even more unrecognisable. There is only one mentioned throughout the entire album - the taqueria on the roof of the hotel called The Information Action Ratio with four out of five stars in rave reviews.
Before this mass migration to the Moon, people look back on the "Golden Age" of the Earth perhaps, modelled on the USA as new students learn about past lives, with the basis of this being the "Golden Age Of Cinema" or something similar. People are sometimes instructed to dress up like fictional characters of the time, possibly past idols that would be long since forgotten if this education did not progress and continue. Religion has become a technological commodity with the standard "weekly chat with God" replacing the priests and cathedrals of Earth. Technology has prevailed and now it is sometimes viewed with contempt. This advancement portrays how the Moon-based society has become increasingly consumerist as time passes with rapidly-progressing innovations such as the common use of virtual reality and phones. Everything has moved online in terms of businesses and experiences and this had let the streets surrounding the hotel to become practically empty. Surveillance has become a key component of this Orwellian society with the increased level of observation of the people; "Dance as if somebody's watching 'cause they are" exemplifies this perfectly. In addition, the closing line in Batphone surrounding the "panoramic windows looking out across your soul" refers to the way technology is now an essential part of our lives and such windows are the screens of phones or perhaps computers. Turner describes the vastness of the array of emotions and personality traits that people are able to determine about someone through the mediums of texting and social media. There’s a certain intimacy to those mediums that mean people are encouraged to be themselves and therefore it allows these windows to stretch out across the soul of the people sending the messages.
Within this now-restricted society, the government now control pretty much everything, including the news and even people's choice of lovers. With regards to the news, reliability and truth can very much be disputed. The way that Turner portrays the controlling of the love-lives of people is through The World's First Ever Monster Truck Front-Flip with the line "A laser guiding my love that I cannot adjust" showing the restrictions that the government now places on society. Societal constraints has since bred an underground clique of writers and artists; the mention of Charles Bukowski adds to this. A prolific underground writer, Bukowski focused his prose and poetry on the menial nature of everyday American life, zooming in on the depravity of those lower down in society. He relied on experience, emotion, and imagination in his work, using direct language, as well as violence and sexual imagery. The Kafkaesque community that resides on the Moon is also driven by business, money, consumerism and advertising with the "ascension of the C.R.E.A.M" being a slight allusion to a song by the Wu-Tang Clan, an American hip-hop group. The acronym stands for “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” which could also be a possible dig at the capitalist society that the Moon may now run within.
In conclusion, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino has a large variety of avenues to go down with regards to possible interpretations and is one that makes sense in the form of a scientific novel, so is very much reminiscent of some of the work of Stanley Kubrick. It's rather intriguing to delve a little deeper into how an album is constructed and the inspirations behind certain elements and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a treasure trove for that. As we've said before, it's a fine piece of work and what I would describe as absolute perfection.