I asked people in West Street Live what they think of the new Arctic Monkeys album, but what would they say?
Who you gonna call, the martini police?
After five years out of the spotlight, Arctic Monkeys finally released their long-awaited sixth studio album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, on Friday to a divided audience.
Some people (me) loved the new style the band have adopted, with the album focused thematically on the idea of a hotel on the Moon in the not so distant future. The new an often disjointed and self-reflective lyrics included references to Blade Runner ("what do you mean you've never seen Blade Runner?"), allusions to Donald Trump ("the leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks"), and side boobs ("kiss me underneath the moon's side boob").
The band also followed the release of the album by opening a pop-up shop in Sheffield, selling exclusive merchandise and displaying artwork.
However, some on Twitter were quick to renounce the new material, declaring that the album is, in a nutshell, shit, and too far removed from the band's previous work. As we all know, Twitter! totally! reflects! real! life!
So I decided to gauge opinion in the band's hometown, and went out to West Street Live and asked the people of Sheffield what they think of the new Arctic Monkeys album.
Waiting in the queue for West Street Live is like queuing for death. You know that something bad is going to happen when you reach the front, but you do it anyway because, as we all know, we're all inevitably heading for death, much like we are all inevitably going to end up in West Street Live.
To distract myself from the impending doom I decided to find my first opinion. I'm not usually one to strike up a conversation with strangers, in fact I never strike up conversations with strangers. I'm in the queue for West Street Live, that's bad enough already. I don't understand people who can strike up conversations with strangers in clubs. Not that it's a bad thing, it's just not great is it. Like repeatedly changing your profile picture on Facebook only to change it back to the old one two days later. Just don't do it.
However, a girl had already struck up a conversation with me and my friends, so I took the plunge. "What do you think of the new Arctic Monkeys album?" I asked. You know that thing drunk people do when they don't hear you, when they sort of lean in far too close, brow furrowed, eyes squinted, and point their ear in your direction. You know, because that's so much clearer than saying "sorry, I didn't hear you". I repeated the question.
"It's shit, mate, their old stuff is so much better, they should do that again", she replied. I disagree with this opinion. "Do you not like their new stuff at all?" I asked. "Yeah", she replied. Does that mean she doesn't like their new stuff at all or she does like their new stuff at all? The queue moved and we got in, so I guess I'll never know.
At the bar I asked the bartender the same question. "I love it! Do you?" she replied. This is why I like West Street Live. Then I bumped into someone in a tuxedo. This is why I do not like West Street Live.
I asked him why he was wearing a tuxedo in West Street Live, he replied with something about a ball, and that he hadn't been to a funeral. "Was it Arctic Monkeys funeral?" I asked. He knew what I meant, and replied "Oh, I haven't listened to it yet but I imagine it's terrible".
We moved to the dancefloor, the worst place to talk to people. If this was A Quiet Place we would all survive because it's utterly pointless making any noise on a dancefloor. I managed to get someone to hear my question, to which he replied "I don't like the Arctic Monkeys". Fuming that he'd called them 'the Arctic Monkeys', I moved on.
Back at the bar I found two lads in, get this, A SHIRT, with A T-SHIRT UNDERNEATH. Prime Arctic Monkeys fans right there. "Do you like the new Arctic Monkeys album?" I asked. "I'm sober mate", one of them replied. I beg to differ.
One last chance to ask someone at the bar. I sidled up to a girl and popped the question. "Oh I'm not really into that sort of stuff", she replied. I asked what she liked. "I prefer like deep house and that sort of thing". I recommended the new Arctic Monkeys album to her.
The smoking area
I approached a guy and a girl in the smoking area, not too different from one of those guys who seemingly haven't approached from a group of friends, ask if they can steal a cigarette from you, and then don't appear to return to any particular group of friends either.
"Do you like the new Arctic Monkeys album?" I asked, for the final time. "I fucking hate it, it's so pretentious and shit. Their last one was better", the girl said. "Which last one? There's many", I replied. "Like, their first one", she said. "Ah, so their last one twelve years ago?"
"They're trying to be mainstream and it's shit. Niche is mainstream now. I hate it," her friend interrupted. Now that really is a conundrum – niche is mainstream.
So perhaps the new Arctic Monkeys album really is as divisive as Twitter suggests. Yet despite the unusual structures, lack of choruses, and focus on piano over guitar, I genuinely believe Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is one of the band's best albums.
Only Arctic Monkeys, having evolved from scrappy upstarts singing about getting taxis home via Hillsborough to the biggest rock stars in the world, could write and produce a whole album about a hotel on the moon and execute it in such an immersive way, both musically and lyrically.
But hey, Twitter says it's shit, so what do I know.