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Arctic Monkeys

Humbug


[Domino; 2009]



By ; August 23, 2009 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

In the early-to-mid-2000’s fall-out from The Strokes’ Is This It, a new class of young British band appeared, fresh-faced and brimming with potential. Since then bands such as The Libertines have burnt themselves out and Bloc Party seem determined to reinvent themselves into a dance-rave group; only Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys has grown into a band that recognises where their talent lies, and they’ve done so at an alarming rate.

This maturity is evident right from the start of Humbug, their third offering. The opening track “My Propeller” is a dark and adult-natured song, laced with innuendo that is almost unrecognisable as an Arctic Monkeys song on first listen. The backing vocals and touches of organ accompanied by the brilliant guitar work from Jamie Cook give this song more texture, atmosphere and depth than has been evident in previous Monkeys efforts. This heavy, guitar-driven sound remains consistent for most of the album. The rhythm section of Matt Helders and Nick O’Malley keep the songs pinned down whilst Turner’s vocals dance around the beat and the guitars are allowed to wander, either in the background adding atmosphere to a song or at the forefront; grooving and enforcing the tunes. The album also proves to be a bold and diverse listen; the influence of producer Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age fame) is evident throughout the album, particularly during the heavier moments which include a righteous guitar solo in “Dangerous Animals” and a fully-fledged rock-out conclusion to “Dance Little Liar”. Helders’ drum prowess is on show as usual on this album, most evident as he powers his way through the stop-start rock of “Pretty Visitors”, his drum fills dominating the bridge and chorus. There are also more delicate moments such as the swell of strings that flourishes during the chorus of “Secret Door”. Not only does the album affirm that Arctic Monkeys are brilliant at writing catchy melodies, but it also showcases each member’s excellent musicianship.

One of the band’s strengths from the start has been Alex Turner’s witty, insightful and descriptive lyrics, and he doesn’t let up here. On this occasion it seems all the characters in his songs have done something wrong; Turner softly intones “I heard the truth was built to bend, a mechanism to suspend the guilt” like the voice in the head of the cheating man in “Dance Little Liar”. He plays a similar role as the inner-voice of concern for the wrong-doer in album closer “The Jeweller’s Hands”. Fans of Turner’s more playful characters such as Mardy Bum from the debut or the Fluorescent Adolescent from Favourite Worst Nightmare need look no further than the ice cream man tormenting protagonist of “Crying Lightning”, though this time the scoundrel’s antics are not so much glorified as they are reprimanded. Of course not all of the songs are serious in tone, the album’s two love songs “Secret Door” and “Cornerstone” recount the tales of hapless lovers in a way that brings a smile to the face.

Not only are the lyrics on the album impressive, but the delivery is more prominent than ever before. Turner has put some work into his singing; crooning during the quieter moments and then using his trademark semi-shouting style during the fast-paced sections, appropriately emphasising each line to ensure its maximum potency. Not only are the lead vocals improved, but it’s evident that a lot more work has gone into the backing vocals, which help to embellish and improve the songs, either harmonising with the lead or adding an entirely new vocal melody to the mix. It’s this attention to detail that really marks the advancement in sound from their previous albums.

The Sheffield quartet have come a long way from writing short pop songs about hometown heroics and nights on the town; with this third album Arctic Monkeys have shown a new found confidence in their ability that has led to them expressing themselves in a deeper and darker way that is more rewarding for the listener. They have moved from strength to strength throughout their short career and their next album is sure to be another greatly anticipated one. So far they have released an impressive three albums in four years, but with their new maturity it would be unsurprising if the band took as long to record their fourth album as they did to churn out their first three. Whenever they deliver it, it will be interesting to discover which direction they take their sound and if they can maintain their incredible consistency.


94%







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