Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
Record Label: Domino
Release Date: August 19, 2009
When the buzz surrounding the Arctic Monkey's single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" launched them into the consciousness of music fans worldwide, it had all the makings of a flash-in-the pan hit. Brash and catchy but not exactly teeming with substance, it made for a fitting precursor to the band's debut offering Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, an album that had a few demure moments, but mostly embodied the cocky swagger of its lead single. When faced with the task of following up their debut, the band might have been expected to mellow out a bit to avoid the "one-dimensional" tag, but their sophomore attempt Favourite Worst Nightmare turned out to be an even more blatantly uptempo affair, and while it failed to achieve the level of commercial success of their debut, it was widely acclaimed.
With their third release, Humbug, comes the change of pace, as the Sheffield boys seem to have applied the brakes quite liberally, though it comes off less as a measure of caution and more as a brazen display of artistic growth. Even a more uptempo number like "Potion Approaching" isn't a simple assault of scratchy garage-rock guitars, choosing instead to go in a more post-punk direction. Also, as evidenced at the outset with the shadowy, ominous sound of opener "My Propeller," there's a hazy psychedelic vibe pervading most of the songs, a stylistic venture foreshadowed somewhat by lead vocalist Alex Turner's work in his side-project The Last Shadow Puppets. The biggest surprise here is probably "Cornerstone," a true highlight on which Turner unfurls a lilting Morrissey-esque croon and even employs Moz's disarming sentiment ("I asked her if I could call her your name").
James Ford, who helmed Favorite Worst Nightmare as well as The Last Shadow Puppets' The Age of the Understatement returns to the producer's chair, and is joined by Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. Listening to the final product, one can envision each of the collaborators' contributions in the studio, with Ford carrying the mystery-shrouded aesthetic of Understatement and Homme adding the sleazy, edgy low-end fuzz that characterizes Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal. It marks a startling departure for the band, perhaps enough even to be considered a reinvention.
It's almost as though the Monkeys came to the realization that there are already enough snotty British garage-rock revivalist bands and that the shtick has grown a bit tired, as evidenced by the less favorable commercial reception of Nightmare and its failure to produce a single as successful as "Dancefloor." Their new noirish undertones shouldn't turn off longtime followers, as the single "Crying Lightning" is clear evidence that they haven't lost their knack for writing infectious melodies and there are even a few danceable moments (compare the rhythm of "Dangerous Animals" with their debut's "Fake Tales of San Francisco"). Overall, Humbug is a confident and mature record that should intrigue fans and attract some newcomers to the bandwagon.
I wasn't crazy about this record at first either, but after giving it a few more spins and having the pleasure of seeing them live last weekend in Milwaukee, it's really started to grow on me. Definitely different, but in now way bad. Good review.
I like Favourite Worst Nightmare way better than WPSIATWIMN, this album was quite a shock for the first listen and i don't seem to get much into this album, although i love some of the songs, but I can say that every time I give it a listen, it slowly grows on me...
My favourite songs are Crying Lightning and Dance Little Liar
now i think this is one of 09's most interesting records (wouldn't say one of the best).
Some great tunes in Humbug....glad to see they went with a totally different direction with this album, i don't know if i could endure one more record of the same sound (even though i love both of their previous works)