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Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Arctic Monkeys)

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is a radical album.

Its central message is a call to arms - but it comes with a warning.

Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has experienced all the world has to offer, from a young Sheffield lad to a multi-millionaire to a sex god.

He is exceptionally gifted and mystical and almost seems to possess a gift of foresight. He even predicted the UK’s “long, hot summer” in Star Treatment.

But the overall mood of the album is dark, dystopic, guilty and deeply concerning. 

It is a “concept album” - it revolves around a story which runs through the album from Track 1 to Track 11. 

The story is set in the future at a time when man has conquered the moon. We have built a lunar hotel and it is advertised as the place where one’s wildest dreams and desires can come true. 

Alex Turner - as the narrator of the album - actually plays several different roles. He starts Track 1 (Star Treatment) as a faded rockstar whose band has a residency at the casino.

The hotel and casino is a metaphor for the promises made by modern technology companies. That is: “If you use and worship our technology your dreams will come true”.

Dating apps offer love, banking apps offer financial self-control, weather apps offer dominance over nature, Facebook offers deeper “connections” with friends. And so on. 

But the guests who stay at the Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - the people who worship technology and actually bought the lie - are not happy. 

They are trapped in a world of self-delusion

The album starts with the faded and crushed rockstar of Star Treatment, and ends with the regret and acceptance of The Ultracheese (below).

The final track is a message to God.

It is filled with sadness and paranoia - but it is beautiful. 

The narrator decides that he does not want the empty promises of technology anymore and instead speaks directly to what this author believes is a Christian God, given Alex Turner’s presumed Judeao-Christian background. 

He tells God: “I’ve done some things that I shouldn’t have done/But I haven’t stopped loving you once”.

However, this essay began with reference to a warning ⚠️

The warning is this: Alex Turner has been to Hell and back.

He wrote this album so that you don’t have to do the same. 

He wants you to realise what your phones are doing to you.

He wants you to understand how empty the promises of technology companies are.

He wants you to take a break from your technology.

And then he wants you to use your phone for good - not to chase evil, empty, Silicone Valley promises 💀

The song that sums up this album is…Science Fiction

Lyrics*:

Religious iconography giving you the creeps.
Feel rougher than a disco lizard tongue along your cheek.

The rise of the machines.

I must admit you gave me something momentarily
In which I could believe.
But behind the harsh reality’s un-gloved
And it’s on its way back in to scoop you up
But not on my watch!

I wanna stay with you, my love
The way some science fiction does.

Reflections in the silver screen - of strange societies
Swamp monster with a hard-on for connectivity
The ascension of the creep
Mass panic on a not-too-distant future colony
Quantitative easing

I wanna make a simple point about peace and love
But in a sexy way where it’s not obvious

Highlight dangers and send out hidden messages
The way some science fiction does
The way some science fiction does

Got the world on a wire
In my little mirror-mirror on the wall
In the pocket of my raincoat

So, I tried to write a song to make you blush.
But I’ve a feeling that the whole thing
May well just end up too clever for its own good…
The way some science fiction does.

*These lyrics reflect what is sung on the track and are different to the lyrics published online by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.

The lyric that sums up this album is…

“This magical thinking feels as if it really might catch on.”

Further reading

Amusing Ourselves to Death (book)

Information-action ratio (theory)

Watch the video for Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (title song)

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