Prepare your turntable for some heavy rotation bangers vinyl fans, ’cause there’s a killer new deep dive record club in town, and you’re gonna want to get your mitts on the band-themed short stack of wax they’re delivering every month. It’s called Bandbox, and it’s not like any vinyl subscription service out there.
Groove Is In The Bandbox
What’s the big deal, you ask? To begin with, the wax warriors behind Bandbox are delivering not just one album to your doorstep every month, but two! And not to overstate the obvious, but the only thing better than getting one new record in the mail every month, is getting twice that number. With Bandbox focusing their packages on a single artist/group every month (Neil Young, Weezer, Ride, St. Vincent, Joy Division/New Order, and Johnny Cash have already been featured), you can be certain they’re digging deep into the archives to send some truly unsung sonic treasures your way.
To keep things interesting, Bandbox is throwing a hitch into their album selection process. That means the first of the mystery discs subscribers receive will be a staple album from said artist’s slate of releases. The second mystery disc is where the deep dive aspect kicks in, with Bandbox pledging to pick an overlooked gem from the artist’s back catalogue. And that gem may or may not be the same album for every subscriber.
If that bold choice isn’t quite enticing enough, you should know that Bandbox is also stuffing every box with a lavishly animated, track-by-track listening companion for the featured album – not to mention a stylish fanzine tracking the artist’s career and releases. Which is pretty damn cool.
Before we get too far into this month’s box, those of you wary of letting a group of complete strangers “surprise” you with artist/album selections every month should know that Team Bandbox has already setup an exchange program which allows you to swap out records you don’t want for ones you do, so long as they’re available in the Bandbox archives. Hell, they’ll even let you integrate your Discogs account to ensure you never receive something you already have in your collection, thus limiting the need to make those swaps.
If you’re really, really wary of surprises, Team Bandbox will even let you tap out of the coming month’s artist and choose from their back catalogue of albums. If that’s still not good enough, you can even “pause” your subscription at any time you like. It’s unlikely you’ll want to “pause” anything once you’ve signed up and experienced Bandbox for yourself. Best advice is to sit back, embrace the adventure, and get down with whatever vibes Bandbox is bringing.
Let The Great World Spin
As for what Bandbox is bringing for February, well, it’s a couple of kick ass offerings from 2000s rockers Arctic Monkeys. I’m hoping that name means something to you, ’cause Arctic Monkeys were one of the biggest bands to emerge from the early 00’s garage rock revival (see also The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Libertines, etc.). All that really means is they were part of the minor movement in the rock world to strip back the lavish production values and overwrought stylings that had been plaguing the scene for much of the late ’90s, and getting back to good ole crunchy guitar riffs and primal vocals.
The result wasn’t quite primal enough to be punk, but more akin to the garage rockers of the late- 60s and 70s. After the release of their debut album in 2006, Alex Turner and the rest of his Arctic Monkeys bandmates unexpectedly found themselves at the forefront of that movement, and on the unexpected path to rock stardom. As it stands, Arctic Monkeys are one of the few bands that survived the garage rock revival bubble, and have even remained among the bigger names in indie rock over the past decade plus.
But hey, even if you’ve never heard of them, know that you’ll be able to get quite intimate with Arctic Monkeys’ sound and vision in the February Bandbox. Let’s have a look, shall we?
In a true Bandbox coup, you’ll actually find a shiny copy of the band’s monster 2006 debut album Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not among the records in this month’s box. You’ll also copy of the band’s most recent release, 2019’s redefining and tragically overlooked anti-rocker Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, which is surprisingly the featured album for February.
Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino (2018)
If you’re wondering why I’m a bit surprised that Tranquility Base hotel + Casino made the cut as Bandbox’s featured selection, well, it’s because it’s the least Arctic Monkeys album the band has ever released. And if I’m being completely honest here, I previously had zero interest in giving this album a stint. That’s not because Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino was touted as a dramatic sonic shift for the band, but because I’d sort of lost all interest in Arctic Monkeys after the release of their debut album … because they’d basically just been retreading that album’s sound with every album that came in its wake.
Prior to unboxing Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, I hadn’t actually listened to an Arctic Monkeys album since 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare. I regret nothing. But I will say that in my own snobbish opinion of the Arctic Monkeys sound, I really did miss out on what (in my own snobbish opinion) is their best album to date.
And yes, Alex Turner and band really did shake things up on Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. So much so that the album really doesn’t sound like an Arctic Monkeys record at all. Gone are the wild and crunchy guitars. In their place are sparse, low-key riffs, stayed solos, and a heavy heaping of piano. Gone is the rambunctious, youthful energy that essentially fueled the Arctic Monkeys’ sound since their breakout. In its place, a stoic synergy fueled by a world-weary knowing. Gone are the grungy, low-lit pubs and stages that set the scene for most Arctic Monkeys songs. In their place, a posh hotel and casino on the moon.
Most importantly on Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino, is Alex Turner’s transformation from a cocky, would-be rock star rabble-rouser into a tortured, soulful troubadour intoning the likes of John Lennon, David Bowie, or Jarvis Cocker, and doing so in service of an epic, pseudo sci-fi concept album. Like I said, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is not the Arctic Monkeys as you’ve come to know and love over the past decade-plus. Rather, it’s the Arctic Monkeys as they might’ve been had they actually come of age playing club gigs on the moon in the 1970s. If that concept sounds appealing to you, you’ll no doubt find untold sonic wonder within the 11 tracks that form Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. Even if it doesn’t, I’d still wholly encourage you to give this gloriously left-of-center collection a listen.
Now, let’s have a look at Bandbox’s deep dive album for February. It may have been a while since you got down with this one, but I’m betting it’s one you have gotten down to before, because Arctic Monkey Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not is legit an early 2000’s indie rock classic.
Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006)
For the record, I wasn’t understating matters when I said how different a sound Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino from the rest of Arctic Monkeys’ hard-hitting oeuvre. Point of fact, their most recent work feels like a full on musical 180 from their debut record, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. With their most recent album all but destined to be known as the album where Arctic Monkeys grew up, their raucous debut will ever remain an undeniably energetic document of youth culture bathed in the sweat and the smoke of the UK club scene.
I’m willing to bet that you’re already keenly aware of the vivid imagery and unbridled energy running through every rollicking, dance-floor diamond on Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not already though. The album was, after all, hailed as an instant classic upon release, fueling several hit singles, topping the UK, becoming a quintuple Platinum seller, and a Mercury Prize winner to boot. Since it’s release Rolling Stone has even ranked it among their “500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.”
I’m not gonna waste much energy bestowing more praise on Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m not, because enough has surely been said of the album over the years. But I will offer that, even more than a decade after it’s release, Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not feels as vibrant, and vital as ever. And that’s true whether you’re discovering it for the first time, or nostalgically reliving your time dancing til dawn and raising all manner of hell in the dimly-lit pubs of days past.
A Cardboard Box For Sharing Music
Bandbox is chiefly concerned with living up to that, “cardboard box for sharing music” definition, not to mention their rep as the deep dive record club. With two full length albums inside, it absolutely lives up to both concepts. What’s so cool about Bandbox is the founders don’t just understand that part of “sharing” music means engaging in all manner of discourse surrounding bands and songs, they actually revel in the act of sharing. And the album/artist inspired magazines included in every month’s box are all about exploring thoughts and ideas inspired by the artists who created the chosen records.
As such, Team Bandbox continues to deliver outstanding content within the pages of those zines. This month’s “Fan Talks” finds founder Alex Rice trading insights on Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino with in a track by track breakdown alongside fellow Arctic Monkeys guru Blair Ransom. As always, “Fan Talks’ comes chock full of marvelous, album-inspired artwork from the brilliant Cou Feis. As for this month’s “Banddox,” Rice takes a magnifying glass to Arctic Monkeys career to date. And does so in high style with more behind-the-scenes snaps of the Monkeys over the years.
First up, let’s have a gander at that Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino “Fan Talks.”
And if you want to reach out to the great Cou Feis, be sure to hit her up on those socials, kids.
Next, let’s dig into February’s Arctic Monkeys-centric “Bandbox.”
Now, who’s ready to have a look at the wondrous wax inside the February Bandbox, already? Yeah, so am I. Let’s kick things off with February’s featured album, Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino.
Just FYI – that scale model cover art will make a bit more sense in the context of the songs on Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. But before we get too far into things, you’ll want to take a moment to dig on the artwork inside that gatefold as well.
As you’re digging in those sleeves, you’ll first find this full color insert complete with complete lyrics for the album. Not to mention some killer photos of the band not the back.
There’s also a digital download code included, ’cause Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is absolutely an album you’ll want for long, ponderous walks in the city.
As for the wax, it’s a thick, black slab of lovely.
Moving along, let’s spend a few moments with Arctic Monkey’s debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and it’s iconic cover.
No gatefold sleeve for this one, but there is some glorious photography on the inner sleeve of the cocksure lads we’ve come to know as Arctic Monkeys.
If you want to know their real names, and what they contributed to Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, take a quick look at the info in the corner there.
There’s a download cared in that sleeve as well, just in case you don’t already have a digital copy of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not to rock around the town with.
And yeah, there’s another slick, glossy disc inside there as well. One that comes with it’s own “day after the party” styled ashtray label.
Battle of the Bandbox
Look, there’s two new records in every single Bandbox. While it’s truly marvelous that the B-box team is doubling down on the wax every month, subscribers are certain to find themselves in the unique position of choosing a favorite between the pair. Sometimes, however, that decision is like picking between eating an apple or eating an orange. That’s the case with this month’s wildly disparate offerings from Arctic Monkeys. On one hand, there’s a garage rock stomper full of down and dirty barroom ditties. On the other, there’s a suave, sci-fi tinged lounge record about a washed up singer kicking around a hotel on the moon.
A week ago I would’ve voted for Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, without blinking. But I was genuinely blindsided by Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino this month. So with my jaw firmly on the floor, I’m announcing that Arctic Monkeys’ latest album has indeed taken the February Battle of the Bandbox. All hail the brilliant and baffling Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino! If you doubt my selection, I’d simply advise you to give this album a thorough listen, ’cause there really is some astounding song craft on display here. And it’s easily one of the coolest records I’ve heard of late.
It’s the Bandbox You Want, And The Bandbox You Need
Look, the so-called “vinyl boom” is not gonna fade away anytime soon. If you’re one of the many who have found themselves giddily wrapped up in the madness, you already aware there are a million and one different options for getting your hands on some sweet, sweet wax. While I’d always encourage you to shop first at your local record store, I also understand that subscription vinyl clubs are an excellent way to help fill in/round out your growing collection.
If you’re looking to round out that collection a little sooner than later, a vinyl club that’s down to send you two worthy records every month is a pretty good way to go. With Bandbox delivering high-quality pressings of albums by popular artists, they’re giving you a chance to both grow your collection with lust-worthy popular discs and discover deep dive treats you might’ve previously overlooked. That savvy mix of quality and variety should make it easy for diehard vinyl fans and newbs alike to board the Bandbox bandwagon. Make sure you get on board today!