Q: What do you get when you mix space-age futurism with retro rock ‘n’ roll, Kubrick accents and a hell of a lot of neon lighting?
A: The new video for Arctic Monkeys’ latest single, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino.
The video begins with frontman Alex Turner donning a white suit whilst being propelled upwards in a glass lift. The camera then cuts to Turner again, but a different persona, as he now sports a beard and black t-shirt. Turner watches a different version of himself be transported up to the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, making the image become one of self-reflection – a definite theme for the entire music video, as we see snippets from Arctic Monkey’s Live at The BBC set alongside the Kubrick-esque orange corridor from the Four out of Five music video. Later on, Turner literally picks up the Batphone. Star Treatment’s “Martini Police” take the Casino’s headline spot “two shows a day, four nights a week,” making direct allusion to the lyrics from the album’s opening track. The album artwork embellishes this music video, appearing from billboards to casino ceilings and slot machine screens.
The neon lighting around the lift is mirrored in Turner’s vision (see below), and considering how glass lifts provide the ultimate sense of clarity, giving perspective to the world below, it is interesting that the mis-en-scene actually appears as blurred. We will expand on this idea of distorted vision in a minute, but for now, let’s focus the role of “semi-transparency”. After Turner exits the lift, the viewer sees mesh curtains slowly raise to reveal a brightly lit landscape outside of the labyrinthine Hotel. What this addition of translucent fabrics and reflections suggests is that, what is happening in the world away from Tranquility Base – a place that is constantly dimly lit and the water uncontrollably bubbles – is a clearer, more organic way of living.
We see another of Turner’s alter-egos, the hotel receptionist “Mark”, try and ground himself amongst the chaos of the Hotel and Casino by escaping to a moonlike desert. Wearing a pure, John Lennon circa Abbey Road white suit, “Mark” walks the expansive landscape which is totally remote, apart from three horses. Yet significantly, the horses are not viewed naturally, but through the lens of a camera. This rounds off the idea that the Hotel distorts natural vision. As soon as a guest may step inside the Hotel and Casino, they are totally enthralled by their surroundings, perceiving objects differently – the horses in the desert may be outside of Tranquility Base, but they essentially become just like the artificial jungle sculptures in the Hotel bathroom. Everything and everyone becomes tinged with a new perspective because of the immediate indoctrination the Hotel and Casino has on its guests (anyone thinking of The Shining yet?).
The artificiality, or superficiality, of the Hotel interior continues to manifest as the video becomes parodic of addiction. Gambling is synonymous with casinos, and finding out who the winner will be keeps the excitement alive. However, this exhilarating anticipation is soon shot-down. Turner asks, or rather tells his audience that “you could be next” to win the prize, but provides an image of himself, becoming the self- confessed champion.
And said “prize” is barely glamourous – a red scooter pulls the viewer back down to Earth from the intergalactic intoxication of the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino.
The motorbike then breaks the desolate LED-lit road with its blistering headlight, greeting us with more contradictions as Turner wearily looks around for some form of signal despite the brightness of the scene. The lack of communication and guidance is exemplified when “Mark” asks how he may direct the phone-call, after he has hung up the phone. Most interestingly, however, is that scooter-riding Turner looks for directions outside of the hotel, but inside as “Mark” he strides confidently up the spiral stairs to answer the phone. This suggests that his senses are clearest when he returns back to his Hotel.
The latest album by the Arctic Monkeys has been reviewed by many as a highly articulated outburst of Turner’s internal monologue – and this video is no exception. The Hotel is presented as a physical representation of Turner’s mind. The video is littered with self-referential symbols, and abiding by “the mind is like a house” analogy, the viewer is being propelled and guided through the emotions of the protagonist. Around every dark corner is a different story to tell, descend down the hallway and behind the hotel door will be another persona, ready to unveil itself.
The story draws to a close by us being brought back down to an Earth and a reality away from the Hotel in the same glass lift from earlier; we are being taken away from Turner’s inner-most thoughts and eccentricities. The video self-documents throughout because in this sense, it is unlikely that listeners will be granted this kind of intimate access to the band ever again. Turner is allowing us, through this album and music video specifically, to see a side to him and the music of his bandmates that we have never seen before – and who knows when we’ll be able to reserve another room at the exclusive, and elusive, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino again.
What are your thoughts on Arctic Monkeys’ latest music video and album? Tell us in the comments below.
Text: Natalie Zannikos
Images: YouTube, Instagram, NME