Wednesday, August 19

Arctic Monkeys- 'Humbug'

. Wednesday, August 19

Written for

If a band define the past decade in Britain it must be Arctic Monkeys. Gaining prominence through internet distribution the band were then catapulted into a hype storm the likes the country has yet to see repeated. They did all this with songs documenting the kitchen sink dramas of the modern British teenager: Girls, gigs and getting ID'd, set to a frantic backdrop of witty observations and punks riffs. This deadly combination saw them rise to their deserved status as chart topping festival headliners and emerge in 2009 with celebrity girlfriends, a stadium cramming live show and huge anticipation for album number three 'Humbug'.

If 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' was a slightly more deranged take on the 2006 debut 'Whatever People Say I Am...' then Humbug is a clean slate altogether. The Arctic DNA remains but things have moved on, slowed down and turned in on themselves. The record opens up with 'My Propeller' and it becomes immediately clear that Alex Turner has taken an almighty step up in his game. Speaking in first person Turner begins a theme of the album by admitting his own deficiencies, (“I can't hold down the urgency”). Shunning the external witticisms of old Turner is now channelling his life between the sheets through the Monkey's music and repeats the refrain “My propeller won't spin and I can't get it started on my own.”,code breakers are probably not needed to work out what he is talking about.

The theme of sex and love permeates throughout 'Humbug' from 'Crying Lightning's sticky sweet rhymes to 'Secret Door's tales of seduction equated to discovering a hidden room in a mansion. The carnal nature of these four young men is coming to the fore and Turner's lyrics carry the tales with a sense of cryptic class. A wordsmith like no other his age he twists and manipulates language in such an idiosyncratic way it's hard not to admire the tracks on a purely textual level. This playfulness reaches a head with the retrospective but trashy fun of 'Pretty Visitors' which sees the John Cooper Clarke influence which presides over all Arctic Monkeys material finally reach a glorious conclusion. From the soon to be famous line, “What came first? The chicken or the dickhead?” to the way Turner enunciates the word “Gasp” with extra emphasis on the p it's all a whiskers breath away from 'Evidently Chickentown'- it is also Arctic Monkeys heaviest song to date.

For the heaviness is the other notable factor in 'Humbug'. It certainly lacks the slap and dash cheek of its predecessors but in place is a fuzzy rumble that struts confidently and bulldozes a path littered with anyone who tries to get near it. Much will be made of Josh Homme's production influence but this is something Arctic Monkeys have hinted at for years, go back and listen to the b-side 'If You Found This It's Probably Too Late' from 2007 to hear the birth of this new found sound. Homme has certainly honed the riffs though and beefed them up in a way only a QOTSA member and the Mojave desert can. As ever Matt Helders drumming remains the beating heart of Arctic Monkeys, watch his drums skins during 'Dangerous Animals' and 'Potion Approaching at upcoming gigs for potential destruction. The interim creation of The Last Shadow Puppets also hangs over 'Humbug' heavily. Clearly enamoured by the Walker/ Bacharach inspired project Alex Turner has fed the grandiosity and projection of the duo into his day job and come out with two of his finest moments to date. 'Secret Door' is a bona-fide festival anthem that will unite the masses on a level with 'Mardy Bum' and 'Fluorescent Adolescent' whilst 'Cornerstone' is a Morrissey aping melodramatic ballad melodically reminiscent of The Kinks, as ever though it is undercut with a darkness- this time it's Turner missing his girlfriend so much that he kisses girls who look like her. Certainly one for the gossip columnists.

'Humbug' is a transitional record for the Sheffield four piece. In the same way tracks on their debut album acted as prototypes for their second you get the feeling that this new found strut will evolve into something truly special on album number four. At just ten tracks long the album still has elements of filler ('Dance Little Liar') and there is no single song to rival the majesty of '505' for supremacy just yet. That aside however it is important to remember that Arctic Monkeys are all aged between 23 and 24 and have already created three superb albums. 'Humbug' will challenge anything for album of the year and only occasionally looks pale in comparison to it's own lineage. A bona-fide success from the best British band of the decade.



Luke Garratt said...

I adore 505 as well and thought I was the only one :)

Can't wait to check this album out

Salma said...

My favorite ones are "Pretty Visitors" & "Dance Little Liar".

Can't wait to buy the album.
I'm heard the CD represents a pie..
It must be a "humbug".. or not.

Anonymous said...

Oh for God's sake. Alex Turner's lyrics are amusing in a George Formby, GCSE kind of way. Dylan Thomas and most decidedly Bob Dylan he ain't.

What on earth is particularly clever, smart or cutting edge about "What came first? The chicken or the dickhead?"

Stop trying to suck arse up to this lot. Problem is they were over-rated from the start and the entertainment now comes from all those muso types frantically hunting around ways to distance themselves from this turkey.

Post a Comment