A kick drum. A sleazy bass riff drenched in sweat and Brylcreem. And a grimy falsetto from Alex Turner building, over three minutes, into some kind of glorious guitar-driven crescendo.

That's how you want an Arctic Monkeys album to kick off, and that's what many will expect when they hit play on Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, the UK group's sixth album.

Not this time. Nope, not even close.

This is a different beast entirely to AM, the Monkeys' last, excellent album from 2013, one that doubled down on their leather-clad, beer-drenched antics by adding plenty of Queens of the Stone Age swagger. Good God it was good.


That's all disappeared. Here, the quartet swap guitar-fuelled festival anthems for fireside ballads in a lounge bar, an album born, apparently, from a piano gifted to Turner on his 30th birthday. It's not a bad idea, and it starts well, with one of his beautifully self-deflating lyrics: "I just wanted to be one of The Strokes."

So far, so haha. But this is hardly Kid A. Mostly, the Monkeys have forgotten to write any songs, instead going for vibe over craft. It's a slow, monotonous grind, one that, save for some occasional moments on Star Treatment and American Sports, is mostly forgettable.

It doesn't help that Turner's lyrical instincts have gone AWOL. "Kiss me underneath the moon's side boob," he declares on the title track. "The exotic sound of data storage, Nothing like it, first thing in the morning," he croons on The World's First Monster Truck Front Flip.

There's nothing wrong with trying something new. The trick is to do it well, or, you know, don't bother. This could have worked as an EP, a Last Shadow Puppets record or an Alex Turner solo record. If they'd added some Marilyn Manson grime here and there, this could be kind of fun.

But stamping Arctic Monkeys on this feels like a mistake. "Four stars out of five," croons Turner at one point, an attempt to score his own album. Like the rest of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, he's miles off the mark.

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Label: Domino
Verdict: Piano-based lullabies from a band capable of better