I have been looking forward to the new Arctic Monkeys album eversince, oh, 2007–after I heard both of their previous efforts, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) and Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), which I still believe is one of the most brilliant and greatest albums ever made, not just of this decade.I had heard before Humbug was released that this would be a departure from their previous sound due to their growth as artists and their fascination with artists like Jimi Hendrix, along with a new producer–Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age. However, I remained oblivious to the apparent shitstorm of controversy these changes were generating until today…but more on that later. For now, I want to talk about Humbug, Arctic Monkeys’ most ambitious and complex effort to date.
The album opens with the slow, fairly subdued but beautiful My Propellor — the new psychadelic guitar sound makes its first appearance here, and this song grows on me more every time I hear it.
Crying Lightning, the band’s first single from this album, is second. I must admit–this song will NOT get out of my head…it is amazing, just incredible.! The song builds gradually for a minute and a half or so until suddenly you are caught off guard and realize “oh my GOD this song is incredible!”. Great guitar and drum work here–the guitar riff is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.
The third track, Dangerous Animals, features more of those amazing 70s influenced guitars…the lyrics & melody remind me a lot of Favourite Worst Nightmare, but with a definite new sound as well. This is a great song–and spelling out the words is fun.Alex loves the word “dangerous”!
Secret Door is a beautiful song, one of my favorites on the album. There are hints of Favourite Worst Nightmare here, too–probably the song that goes back to that album more than any other, though the psychadelic guitar work continues and sounds fantastic. The end of the song sounds deliciously Beatles-esque. This is (my humble opinion) the best track on the album.
The next track, Potion Approaching, features–you guessed it–great guitar and drumwork, and is one of the faster tracks. I hear the influence of The Doors SO strongly in this song and I think they do a great job. I was a Doors fan as a kid so this speaks strongly to me–I’m not an impartial judge here! But regardless, I believe this is a strong tune heavy on mood and melody.
Next is Fire And The Thud, a beautiful, beautiful song that subtly sneaks up on you as it builds slowly to a bridge of raucous horns & harmonies.Alex & co. have really been studying up on their 70s music for this album and it has led to a sound that pays tribute to those classic bands and artists without sounding stale or recycled.
And then we come to Cornerstone. This song is an absolute heartbreaker: “She was close/close enough to be your ghost” — yet with the wry wit that Alex Turner brings to his saddest lyrics. I guarantee you will be moved by this song…I swear, my heart breaks every time! Just beautiful.
The next track is Dance Little Liar, which has a great beat and melody. It takes a darker tone and ends with more great guitars and drumwork.
Next up is Pretty Visitors, by far the fastest song on the album, featuring quick-paced wit from Alex at his best. The best line of the album is in this song: “What came first, the chicken or the dickhead?” WIN! This album should receive 5 stars just for that line. Seriously.
The final track, The Jeweller’s Hands, is another beautifully moody song with rich guitars and a haunting melody. A pretty mellow way to end the album, but then again, this album is far more rich and subdued than either of their previous efforts, and it should not come as a surprise.
Oh dear, what a way to begin the CD review portion of this blog! After reading some other reviews, Internets, I’m afraid I need to get up on My Soapbox trade; and administer a verbal beatdown on the people getting paid to
whine review Humbug.
The reviews that I read from critcs were OVERWHELMINGLY negative, from Britan to the US, and it reminded me that we live in a world that pays no attention to reality when it comes to music.
I really don’t understand why people expect an artist to remain exactly the same as they were on their first album. Guess what ? PEOPLE GROW. Over TIME! And their interests and focus and way of seeing the world ALSO CHANGE! I would be incredibly worried if a band as intelligent and talented as Arctic Monkeys didn’t change significantly in the years they take between albums. Their sound reflects that they are human beings who are growing and developing in their art as well as people. So I say to the critics who can’t stop stepping all over this record (and, believe it or not, Favourite Worst Nightmare)–go blow your hot air somewhere else. This is a losing battle. Why be so negative all the time?
To everyone: trust me, this album is a grower–you will listen to it several times before the sheer brilliance of it really begins to make sense to you. Every time I listen to it, I love it more. It is far more subtle and nuanced than previous albums, and you know what ? I love it. They are not interested in making the same album twice (*cough* Coldplay / Radiohead *cough*) , and instead spent two years moving beyond where their art had been before. I have nothing but respect for these guys, and Humbug has only made me love and respect them more. Listen and see what I mean for yourself.