Monday, May 28th, 2018

Arctic Monkeys – Four out of Five

Wishful thinking! Try [5.60] out of ten…


Alex Clifton: I was annoyed that the Arctic Monkeys were not going to release any singles prior to the release of Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, and in one sense I think I was justified by that: it’s irritating whenever someone announces an album project well in advance and refuses to give a taste, especially when they hint it’ll go in a vastly different direction than previous work. On the other hand, after listening to the whole album, I get why they went that route: it’s really flipping weird to release singles from concept albums that are heavily dependent on the other tracks for context. Alex Turner’s gone from drunk greaser cowboy to sci-fi receptionist film buff, which is quite the transformation. It feels like a dreamier version of some of his work with The Last Shadow Puppets. As is the case with nearly everything Turner’s ever touched, the songwriting itself is pretty solid, but it runs a little long. Four out of five minutes would have done.

Iain Mew: Something clicked when I stopped thinking about Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino as This is Loungecore and considered it instead as a semi-successor to Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World. They both have communication and outer space as themes, but more important are a couple of key realisations both bands work with. The first is the potential surrealism of the routine. A couple of fantasy elements and lots of the very specific mundane can be much weirder and more evocative than fantasy alone: overpriced unreal estate; the well reviewed taqueria on the moon. Alex Turner’s gift for observational storytelling proves just as strong with the narrative squeezed down, phrases like “start your free trial today” and “four stars out of five” taking on a new life with room outside of context. The other related realisation, and the one which makes “Four out of Five” so powerful, is what to do with that blankness, that the melancholy emptiness of grandeur is best conveyed by focusing on crafting the grandeur. So as they build momentum from an acoustic space oddity to a sweeping epic, the original fuzzy riff lurks like a gaping maw below to offer a hint of precarity, but we keep looking up and up, the melody going round in smaller and increasingly spectacular circles. When the full magnificence of the structure is revealed and the guitar counterparts start bursting like fireworks in the sky, sparkling like dragonflies, the depth of the nothing behind it all turns crushingly poignant.

Claire Biddles: The first time I encountered “Four out of Five” was via a screenshotted lyrics booklet excerpt — “hokey cokey with the opposite sex”, what overblown nonsense was this? I didn’t bother listening to the song; thought I already knew they’d lost it. Then Iain compared “Four out of Five” and the rest of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino to the Super Furry Animals’ masterpiece Rings Around the World: both sonically and — crucially — in its cultivation of lyrical surrealism via juxtapositions of ordinary phrases and benign observations. Then I thought back to the time I saw Arctic Monkeys in a working men’s club in Barnsley in 2005, Alex Turner making dad jokes about bingo and “turns” between songs despite being written about in that week’s NME as mysterious and begrudging of their imminent fame. I remembered that they’ve always been funny, despite the kneejerk, convenient willingness (by me, among others) to paint them as either po-faced or purveyors of accidental Partridge-isms. I’m not sure if I love this version of Arctic Monkeys, but it’s fun to put in the work to uncover the irony in pop sometimes.

Juan F. Carruyo : An Arctic Monkeys agnostic, I’ve watched them long outgrow the need for people like me. Their newest effort seems a concentrated effort to separate the loyal from the dilettantes, but it manages to keep enough of their DNA to keep it on brand. I find their obsession with James Dean unfortunate, and they’re one round-stage tour from becoming a U2-sized drag, but right now they’re merrily skirting the line between artful ambitions and commercial market value. They’re not hacking it out, either: the song shifts gears around two-thirds in. They’re expecting the listener to remain engaged that far into it. I did, so a success it is. 

Stephen Eisermann: A stunning redirection, what begins as a somewhat familiar Arctic Monkeys takes a sharp left during the bridge and fully indulges in the theatrical sound. It’s exhilarating hearing the musical shift, all the while listening to a metaphoric sales pitch that reminds us just how prevalent capitalism is in modern society. This is artistic commentary done right. 

Ryo Miyauchi: That greased-hair sleaze-ball look of AM fit so well on Alex Turner and co., though “Four out of Five” reminds it was only that: a look. Turner picks a rather obtuse one to reside in with this classic organ-pop. But at least it inspires him to loosens up a little than before, putting on that affect in his voice, like he wants to actually share how his new facial hair makes him look like a fool.

Ian Mathers: We can see what you’re going for, sir, but we’re sad to report you just don’t have the range.

Eleanor Graham: If I may quote a meme posted on the self-described “indie” group chat for gig-goers at my future university: “It’s easy to spot the Bowie influence on this new Arctic Monkeys album, because just like David himself, the songs on this record are fucking dead.”

Vikram Joseph: In which the Arctic Monkeys reach for (being the first Beatles tribute act to play on) the moon, but land somewhere between the Addams Family theme tune and a creepy music-box playing “Lovecats.” Throw in some sub-Win Butler social commentary on advertising and consumer culture, and the overall effect is a genuinely bizarre lump of nauseating lounge psychedelia. Given that it’s also two minutes longer than it has any right to be, it’s a bonkers choice for a lead single — almost admirable, if it weren’t so irredeemably bad.

Alfred Soto: Although I’m still sorting through my responses to an album that not only essays Something Different (at least from the arrangements) but comes from a band that inspires eye rolls from colleagues, “Four out of Five” was an instant earworm, thanks to the band’s usual and hence comforting harmonies and a chorus that Alex Turner doesn’t gulp or gargle. There can never be enough songs about penthouse taquerias in gentrified hotels. 

Reader average: [7.71] (7 votes)

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4 Responses to “Arctic Monkeys – Four out of Five”

  1. got damn that’s a good song

  2. I heard this song in the car on the way back from Sainsbury’s this morning and I am afraid to report it is bad. Luckily they played Kungs vs Cooking On A Camping Stove immediately afterwards so Bank Holiday = SAVED

  3. 10/10 eleanor (even though I actually like this song)

  4. Agreed.