The Listener

A Bowie tribute album: Arctic Monkey’s Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino reviewed

19 May 2018

9:00 AM

19 May 2018

9:00 AM

Grade: B+

Oh, terrific — a concept album about a 1970s hotel somewhere in space, plus an attack on our over-technologised world. Just what I wanted. There is no restraint on self-indulgence if you have a sufficiently remunerative back catalogue. This is also a Bowie tribute album, which fits in nicely with all that outer-space business. I have never heard any performer clamber so comprehensively into the skin of a dead rock star as Alex Turner does with Bowie here, in the writing and even more so in the mannered singing with its characteristic falsetto swoops. This is pure Bowie from the era between The Spiders of Mars and David Live, and especially Aladdin Sane. Turner even gets his guitarist to pretend he’s Mick Ronson, to fairly good effect, with fuzzy solos straight out of those glam years.

Still, they almost pull it off. A largely piano-driven set with the occasional motorik beat often uplifted by Turner’s melodic twists and turns. There is nothing quite as catchy and melodramatic as ‘Drive-In Saturday’ or, still less, ‘Rebel Rebel’. But ‘One Point Perspective’ has a cutely managed tune, and ‘Golden Trunks’ is lush and romantic in that familiar old skool Bowie manner and has the best line on the album: ‘The leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks.’ He’s good at one-liners, Alex. But he is also too prolix and unfocused to deliver a song that lyrically resonates, which stays with you once he is gone. And then there’s ‘Five Years’. Did I say ‘Five Years’? I meant ‘The Ultracheese’. But it’s ‘Five Years’ in not much of a disguise.

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