You don’t need us to tell you Alex Turner is one of the finest lyricists music has ever seen. Whatever you make of the music on the bound-to-be-a-little-divisive new Arctic Monkeys album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino‘, there’s no denying he’s really done it again with some of the record’s lines. He might have recently admitted some of his older lyrics are a little embarrassing to him now, but there are plenty of stunners – and some weirder ones – on the newie for him to be proud of.
“I just wanted to be one of The Strokes/Now look at the mess you made me make” (‘Star Treatment’)
Easily one of the most iconic opening lines of an album in recent years. The frontman’s said he’s talking to himself in this line, but it’s easy to read it as he’s talking to any number of groups – the media, the music industry, the fans.
“I just wanted to be one of those ghosts you thought that you could forget/And then I haunt you via the rearview mirror on a long drive from the back seat” (‘Star Treatment’)
One of Alex’s best attributes when it comes to songwriting is being able to write words that immediately transport you to whatever scenario he’s describing, and make it feel like you’re there in ultra hi-def vision.
“Dancing in my underpants/I’m gonna run for government/I’m gonna form a covers band an’ all” (‘One Point Perspective’)
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Alex Turner for President. Alex Turner to take on the role of Julian Casablancas in a Strokes covers band. Alex Turner for, er, the world’s next favourite erotic dancer?
“And I never thought, not in a million years/That I’d ever meet so many Lolas/Can I please have my money back?/My virtual reality mask is stuck on ‘Parliament Brawl’/Emergency battery pack just in time for my weekly chat with God on video call” (‘American Sports’)
There’s something about the beginning of these lyrics that feels like you’re deep in Alex’s mind as if he’s just chucking his thoughts out in a stream of consciousness, mulling over how half his acquaintances have the same name. Then he goes deeper still, getting into politics and religion.
“Pull me in close on a crisp eve, baby/Kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob” (‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’)
What is the moon’s side boob? How has he managed to make his lyric simultaneously gorgeously swoony and a bit ridiculous? Baffling.
“Do you celebrate your dark side then wish you’d never left the house?/Have you ever spent a generation trying to figure that one out?” (‘Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino’)
And then a couple of lines later, he comes out with this cracker – one of the most perfect lyrics on the album.
“The leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks/He’s got him sen a theme tune” (‘Golden Trunks’)
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Top marks here for getting “him sen” – aka Yorkshire dialect meaning “himself” – onto the record. A reaction to all the mocking of his accent after he moved to LA? Less said about that Trump image the better, though…
“Cute new places keep on popping up/Since the exodus, it’s all getting gentrified/I put a taqueria on the roof/It was well reviewed/Four stars out of five” (‘Four Stars Out Of Five’)
This is where we get shown around the fictional Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. Turns out the moon isn’t immune to the plights of gentrification, but boy do we want to grab a taco and a frozen marg at the rooftop taqueria.
“The world’s first ever monster truck front flip/I’m just a bad girl trying to be good” (‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’)
You might have looked at that song title when the album tracklist was first announced and thought, ‘How on earth are they gonna get that one into the lyrics?’ Done it, Alex has, and just to balance out the ridiculousness, he’s immediately followed it with another line that’s just too damn good.
“I feel rougher than a disco lizard tongue along your cheek” (‘Science Fiction’)
What, pray tell, is a disco lizard? It doesn’t matter too much though, because you don’t need zoological knowledge to know this is a stone-cold classic of a lyric.
“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” (‘Science Fiction’)
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He’s already written a song that could make anyone blush, though. Has he forgotten the words to The Last Shadow Puppets’ ‘Sweet Dreams, TN‘?
“I need to spend less time stood around in bars/Waffling on to strangers about martial arts/And how much I respect them” (‘She Looks Like Fun’)
Would not complain if Alex Turner tried to waffle on at us about martial arts over some hard liquor. Keep at it, lad. (Side note: this song also features Alex wailing “Cheeseburger” and “Snowboarding“, which is, y’know, unexpected.
“I launch my fragrance called ‘Integrity’/I sell the fact that I can’t be bought” (‘Batphone’)
Sorry to state the bleeding obvious, but this Turner guy is pretty clever, isn’t he? And yet he makes it seem so effortless.
“Still got pictures of friends on the wall/Suppose we aren’t really friends anymore/Maybe I shouldn’t have ever called that thing friendly at all/Get freaked out by a knock at the door when I haven’t been expecting one/Didn’t that used to be part of the fun once upon a time?” (‘The Ultracheese’)
Album closer ‘The Ultracheese’ opens with these highly relatable lines about some of the pitfalls of getting older – namely drifting apart from old friends, and being suspicious about why someone is trying to contact you IRL.