Monday, 14 May 2018

Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino: A Review

In an era defined by technology, nostalgia and the end of analogue, it seems only fitting that the Arctic Monkeys - whose earlier music was so deeply rooted in the physical experience - should head off into the virtual world. The new concept album, entitled Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, revolves around a resort located on the moon, and traverses this environment in a deeply cinematic way. Recalling film theorist Gilles Deleuze’s  theory of the “any-space-whatever” – a jarring, disorientating arena – Alex Turner’s aural journey is reflective of the digital landscape: a media-saturated, disconnected platform that society is struggling to understand, yet alone keep up with.

Social commentary has been at the heart of the Monkeys’ albums since their beginning. From examining youth culture in early 2000s Britain to tapping into the collective consciousness with AM, each record has held up a mirror to society. With the last five years offering so much in the way of technological and cultural change – including VR, drones and endless political upheaval – it seems only natural that this record deals with media overstimulation and new forms of communication. Young people connect differently now – and this album acknowledges that, with a wink to the camera.

In this respect, Turner’s complex, hard-to-decipher and often self-referential lyrics encourage repeated listening, rewarding fans with a deeper understanding of the album’s rich tapestry and the singer’s internal monologue. A surprising yet strikingly timely departure, the collection repeatedly breaks the fourth wall whilst retaining a shrouded essence of the band's earlier work. Punctuated by pop culture references and sounds originating from the 1970s up to the present day, the album is a postmodernist masterpiece – nostalgic, self-aware and strikingly forward thinking. 

What did you think of the album?
Elly xxx

Saturday, 28 April 2018

10 Reads in 10 Minutes

Over the last six months, I've been reading more than ever. From rereading my father's favourites to discovering contemporary classics, I've explored novels which have each engaged with modern life in different ways. Whether political, satirical or social in nature, these stories reveal and question truths about the state of 20th and 21st century. I've compiled a list of my 10 most recent reads, in the order I read them, with a brief synopsis. Enjoy!

1. Brighton Rock, Graham Greene

One of my all time favourites. This novel is intensely gripping, offering a dark story of gang violence set against the backdrop of 1930s Brighton. Following the tormented leader Pinky, the book touches on themes of religion, sexuality and the role of women in early 20th century Britain.

2. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

A biting satire on the disconnected nature of contemporary life, Bret Easton’s Ellis’ classic book occupies the border between truth and fiction. Filled with drugs, sex and graphic violence, American Psycho offers a revealing, disturbing and humorous look at material culture.

3. Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter

Max Porter’s response to Ted Hughes’ Crow blurs the lines between poetry and prose, offering a unique formal style which mirrors the complexity of its content. An investigation into feelings of loss, the book tracks the story of a family who have recently lost their mother. 
4. Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell 

Offering a personal look at a global issue, this novel tracks Orwell’s experiences of living in poverty in Europe’s major cities. The prose is educational, gripping and often very funny, highlighting the unique and strikingly human characteristics of those he meets along the way. 

5. 1984, George Orwell

This novel is uncannily timely. Dealing with issues of government surveillance and control, Orwell’s tour de force rings true over 50 years later. Highly political, the book chronicles the everyday existence - and acts of resistance - of those living under the gaze of the state.

6. The Secret History, Donna Tartt 

Shocking, compelling and deeply cinematic, this book offers an intimate look into the dark underbelly of the American college system. Following a dysfunctional group of Classics students - and a protagonist who falls under their spell - The Secret History is a disturbing mystery. 

7. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffery Eugenides

Investigating life in suburbia, this cult classic follows the story of a doomed family through the mesmerised eyes of young boys. Exploring notions of the male gaze whilst interrogating adolescence, this is a chilling - and at times otherworldly - coming-of-age story.

8. The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell
In true Orwellian style, this book deals with political themes through a personal lens. Chronicling life in 1930s Britain, the first half of The Road to Wigan Pier offers a glimpse into the homes and workplaces of working class citizens, whilst the second is an in-depth study of Socialism.

9. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

This post-apocalyptic science fiction novel offers an insight into the human psyche, suggesting a vision of society after a major collapse. Seen through the eyes of those who have never experienced 21st century conveniences, the book offers an all-too-plausible vision of the future.

10. The Tobacconist, Robert Seethaler
Robert Seethaler’s nuanced tale tracks the story of a young man growing up in pre-WWII Vienna after leaving his rural home. Observing in microcosm the looming presence of war, the novel follows his experiences working as the apprentice to a local tobacconist. 
Have you read any good books lately? Let me know your favourites.

Elly xxx