Release Date: Aug 25, 2009
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
While the Arctic Monkeys may be a quintessentially 21st century band, Humbug is an album that presents the critic with a very old-fashioned problem. The abrupt uncommercial curveball record from a big-selling, once zeitgeist-imbued artist is a bitch to review upon release, because it comes weighed down with such distracting baggage. What do you really do when confronted with opener ‘My Propeller’? Do you note that it’s probably the album’s most immediate track, that it sounds like Your Arsenal-era Morrissey, only a splash more sinister - reedy, off-kilter backing vocals, a bludgeoning drum crescendo - and a fair bit naughtier? (unless Alex Turner has developed some sort of unseemly biplane fixation, the lyrics would appear to basically be one big innuendo) Or do you rattle on about how Turner doesn’t sound even slightly like the quickfire kitchen sink laureate of old, note that it’s hardly a hummable pop song, ponder the potential influence of co-producer Josh Homme on the beefy musicianship and nudge nudge wink wink lyrics, consider how Turner’s stint in The Last Shadow Puppets may have impacted on the lugubrious pacing and then come to a conclusion about what this all means.
Alex Turner makes bid for Britpop greatness on his band’s best album yet.John Lennon. Pete Townshend. Ray Davies. Paul Weller. Noel Gallagher. The League of English Gentlemen in question is, by definition, a small and exclusive fraternity, but perhaps it’s time to add a more contemporary name ….
An odd sense of uncertainty hangs over the third Arctic Monkeys album. They are almost guaranteed success: if Oasis's continued ability to fill arenas proves anything, it's that the kind of lumpen, lager-chucking fanbase both bands share doesn't desert easily. But they have to change, as all bands predicated on earthily honest depictions of everyday life must when the money rolls in and the models start forming orderly queues to hump you.
Frontman Alex Turner must have known that putting out a third album of snarly Brit indie tunes recooked on the winning formula of their debut would ensure a quick trip to irrelevancy. So he and the lads put their trust in Queens of the Stone Age heavyweight Josh Homme to help craft a record that, though not completely successful, frequently surprises, takes chances and demands further listens. [rssbreak] Humbug's reverb-heavy guitars and moody atmosphere might put off Arctic fans yearning for more direct, catchy When The Sun Goes Down-type fare.
Suck it and see what you get: something a bit crunchier that's been boiled up with producer Josh Homme in the Mojave Desert, but with the sweetener of Alex Turner's words..
Three albums in, the lads from northern England continue to churn out spiky Britpop anthems, though they take a (relative) turn for the deeper and darker on their new album, Humbug. There’s a new psychedelic wooze that springs, no doubt, from the album’s producer, sludge-rock maestro ?and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. B+ See all of this week’s reviews .
Gone are the reckless dance-punk youth from the eras of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare. Arctic Monkeys have grown up, and on their third disc, they have plenty of angst to share. Singer Alex Turner's once-boisterous vocals are deeper and more glowering. In addition, the British quartet tapped Josh Homme to produce Humbug, and the Queens of the Stone Age frontman leaves a dark fingerprint on the record.
The hype surrounding Arctic Monkeys' 2006 debut album was so monstrous it threatened to swallow the band and its music whole. And a lesser band might have been swallowed, but it should be clear by now that Arctic Monkeys weren't undone by a little media frenzy. It's no surprise: They're a skilled band that writes complex songs filled with unexpected musical turns, wit, and observational acumen.
Facing the third album blues, the Arctic Monkeys turned to Josh Homme, the Queens of the Stone Age mastermind renowned for his collaborations but heretofore untested as a producer. On first glance, it's a peculiar pair -- the heirs of Paul Weller meet the heavy desert mystic -- but this isn't a team of equals, it's a big brother helping his little siblings go wayward and get weird. Homme doesn't imprint his own views on the Monkeys but encourages them to follow their strange instincts, whether it's a Nick Cave obsession or the inclination to emphasize atmosphere over energy.
Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner has an endearingly annoying habit of quietly thinking that he is the smartest bloke in the room. And, really, his saving grace is that he appears to view this as more of a curse than anything else. It’s not that he’s a misanthrope; it’s just that you really bother him. Through out their relatively short but entirely noteworthy career, the Arctic Monkeys have made a non-art out of ironic indulgences and tongue-in-cheek introspections.
It’s hard to believe that the Arctic Monkeys are less than a decade old… or that their first album came out just over three years ago… or that this is only the third album for one of the biggest names in new music. But then again, a lot of things about the Arctic Monkeys seem hard to believe. And so, not too long ago, the critics assumed that songwriter Alex Turner was cribbing lines from someone else, because this teenage upstart from Sheffield surely couldn’t be one of the greatest lyricists of his generation.
Yikes, all of that hype that swirled around Arctic Monkeys really was massive, huh? I mean, when you sit back and reflect, on just one day of sales their first album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, became the fastest-selling British album in history, in ONE day. During the same month that it was released, NME published a list that featured that same album as the fifth greatest British album, above all of the albums by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. After that, they quickly wrote and released their second album, the underrated but terrifically excellent Favourite Worst Nightmare, within a year of their first album’s release.