on 28 September 2009
The UK music press has created and destroyed so many bands over the years, that it's always best to take a "don't-believe-the-hype" approach.
But three albums into their career, here's what we know:
1. Arctic Monkeys are the best British band of the new millennium. (Sorry Franz Ferdinand, Editors, Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, etc.).
2. Alex Turner has the wit, intelligence, and vocal chops to be ranked among the best British singer-songwriters of the past 40 years - he's up there with the likes of Ray Davies, Pete Townsend, Paul Weller, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker.
3. "Humbug" is a major step in the band's musical evolution-Sheffield post-punk blended with the stated influences of Cream and Jimi Hendrix and produced by Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and James Ford (Simian/Alex Turner's side project The Last Shadow Puppets).
The Monkeys delivered on the hype with their brilliant debut album "Whatever People Say I Am, That Is What I'm Not." They followed up with the excellent "Favourite Worst Nightmare." Now they've delivered possibly their best yet: a hard-boiled sweet called "Humbug." Along with a new maturity, there's a familiar lyrical cheekiness, too, especially on tracks like My Propeller ("I can't get it started on my own") and Crying Lightning ("My thoughts got rude as you talked and chewed/On the last of your pick'n'mix"). "Pretty Visitors" is the track most like the Monkeys of old. And standout "Cornerstone" is a song of lost love and mistaken identities reminiscent of The Who's "Disguises."
Clearly, the cheeky Monkeys have evolved into grown up rockers.
Bring on the backlash.
on 26 August 2009
I'm dismayed about the number of negative reviews for this album. Personally I think this is their best album to date. I agree it has not got the instant pop rock feel of 'Whatever...' but it has a far more complex layered sound that takes repeated listens to really appreciate. We have become far too dependent on the instant gratification that pop records provide: the sugar rush. However, instant short term pleasure often leads to long term disappointment. Give this album time and reap the reward of dark, subtle and brooding classic.
on 3 August 2009
I disagree with another reviewer on this page who suggests one cannot detect Josh Homme's influence on this album. True, "Humbug" is no Desert Rock album, but the more primordial, often erotic and sweaty stew, which permeates QOTSA's music is very apparent here.
This makes for a particularly beguiling listen; Alex Turner always writes with a real pop sensibility, so where QOTSA might go off on an extended jam from time-to-time, this wonderful record has not an ounce of flab on it. 10 songs, 39 minutes, every moment made with the listener in mind.
On their previous album, "Do Me A Favour" and "505" in particular hinted that in terms of song structure and growing lyrical maturity, this band were going to be taking us to some interesting places in future. "Humbug" delivers on that promise... and then some. I've been playing this to death over the past few days and still can't help grinning at the surfeit of genuine surprises and moments of sheer invention that are crammed into its lean running time. All of that and the usual serving of great hooks, riffs and memorable choruses (they spoil us..really, they do!) make this a record anyone with an interest in music made with guitars is going to derive immense joy and satisfaction from.
Arctic Monkeys are so far above and beyond the "Landfill Indie" being peddled around the festival circuit by their peers that comparisons seem laughable. There'll never be another Beatles (and who'd want that anyway?) but when the history of this great band is finally written, it's very possible that "Humbug" will be viewed as their "Revolver" - the record that frees them to go wherever they want. For now, they've arrived at a great place.
on 14 September 2009
I remember when the Arctic Monkeys' last album came out, Favourite Worst Nightmare, playing it was an explosion of great rock to dance to. Since I wasn't following the band to closely, that was kind of what I expected over again, but the album couldn't be further from it. This new album still features their trademark sound, only slightly chilled out... totally unexpected. And they are brilliant at it. The lyrics are still smart, the sound is great, guitars are superb, drums are banging hard, but somehow it feels so well chilled... a must have, and a brilliant evolution for a great band.
on 15 September 2009
This time around the Monkeys have decided not to try and make `What Ever People Say I am...' again. That was an album that a band gets to make once and it should be left at that. The decision then to work with Josh Homme and James Ford was a very good idea. From the start you can see the results. `My Propeller' is dark and moody with subtle menace. First single `Crying Lightning' is then a plodding and intriguing track that grows into spitting venomous chorus. Yet through that Turner's pop sensibilities hold it up as something really good. Ironically the thing actually now feels like a dream or a nightmare with tracks like `Dangerous Animals', `Secret Door', `Fire and the Thud' and `Dance Little Liar'.
Ultimately everybody's influence on it is carefully balanced to create a coherent and original whole. It will be interesting to see what they do with the tracks live, but for now this is solid and promising from one of Britain's brightest hopes.
I sit on the fence with this album. I did not enjoy Favourite Worst Nightmare, but was enthused to hear that Josh Homme was working on this album. You can definitely hear his influence on these tracks in the dark and brooding tone of the songs with several having QoTSA-esque off-kilter time signatures and unnerving guitar solos ('Pretty Visitors' being the prime example). There are hints of other bands too; 'My Propellor' reminds me of Echo & the Bunnymen a little, and 'Potion Approaching' is Nirvana-esque.
The album seems quite one-dimensional with all of the songs sounding too similar in my mind. It lacks the oomph of the band's debut. Even the structure of the songs is quite samey, with many tracks relying on a short riff running throughout the verse to drive the track ('Dangerous Animals' is one such example). While these are intelligently written, they are not memorable enough to hook the listener. The album does give some of Alex's best vocal performances though, particularly in 'Secret Door' and 'Cornerstone' (perhaps the two best tracks on the album), with a return to his crooning Scott Walker-esque vocals as heard on the Last Shadow Puppets album.
Overall though the album is somewhat average. I'm all for moving forward and experimenting with musical styles, but not at the expense of energy and hooks. The songs are good, but nothing more than that, and the album becomes a little dull, even monotonous, towards the end because the pace remains the same throughout. It is not until 'Pretty Visitors' (which is another good track, despite the suspect lyric - 'What came first...?'), the penultimate track, that we get a faster song. Gone is the excitement of Whatever People Say I Am..., replaced by a certain reserve and restraint, as if the band are playing safe. It is better than Favourite Worst Nightmare, if only because it is more consistent, but while 'Cornerstone' is perhaps one of their best tracks to date, the other songs do not hold up to the Arctic Monkeys' back catalogue.
on 19 November 2009
This is one of those records that, having read all the reviews, I felt duty bound to listen to over and over again. Unfortunately to these ears it doesn't sound any better for repeated playing. Regarding the Artic Monkeys, I just don't get it; leaden guitar riffs abound and there is a lack of any musical light and shade or just a decent melody (Cornerstone being the one exception). They are the kind of group who leave you feeling bemused why you cannot lose your head while all around are losing theirs. I am not saying that their enormous fan base are wrong but while Alex Turner is clearly a talented lyricist this album is the musical equivalent of leftover chicken soup. Where are the tunes? The Artic Monkey's are frequently described as one of the most important bands of our times; could it be they are also the most overated bands of our times?
Sorry, but it does get rather tedious only creating reviews of albums that we love.
0 out of 18 found this review helpful....
on 16 September 2009
I was, and still am a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys. I thought that 'Whatever People Say I Am...' was one of the best debut albums I'd heard in nearly a decade, and I thought that 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' had some of the best stuff they'd done, even if it was a bit patchy. I was very much looking forward to this follow up. I'd heard that it was going to be a much more slow and mellow album, which certainly didnt worry me as their earlier slower paced songs are amongst my favourites - 'A Certain Romance', 'Flourescent Adolescent', 'Mardy Bum' '505' to name a few.
This album starts off well with 'My Propeller' a song that makes me think of a night time drive scene in a movie, and 'Crying Lightning' at track 2 is a deliciously saucy number. But, songs 3 through 6 are sadly largely ignorable songs, which don't leave much of an impression, and seem to stumble along without much idea where to go. They're not bad songs, and there are some good lyrics, but they don't hold your attention much. 'Cornerstone' at track 7 is a fabulous song (The Arctic's slightly askew version of a love song), 'Dance Little Liar' simmers away nicely like a classic moody QOTSA number Arctic's style, 'Pretty Visitors' is a cracking menacing beast that has Alex Tuner's most piercing lyrics on the album. But the album ends rather inconspicuously with The Jewellers Hands, a song which acts like the end credits of a movie - you know the show is over, but you don't pay much attention to the credits.
So there's some good and some OK. But what there isn't on this album is anything EXCEPTIONAL. Josh Homme's production is very obvious, and that's not a bad thing as he does exactly what the songs need, but none of these songs are instant. It's an album that you play and happily get into, but having listened to this album for over a month now there arent any specific songs on here that I immediately return to. The last 2 albums had stand out songs a plenty, this doesnt. If you are already a fan it's definately worth having. If you're new to the Arctic Monkeys, the other albums are an easier starting point.
on 18 February 2010
Undoubtedly, "Humbug" is a thousand miles from the spiky, infectious riffs of "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" and the days of lines such as "you used to get it in your fish nets..." from the wonderfully-crafted "Fluorescant Adolescant". This development inevitably cut many of the loose, pop-hungry listeners from the Monkeys' Fan Club, as the album slips into more powerful, harsher depths - evident from its introductory moments, delivered by forthcoming single "My Propeller", which synchronises thudding drums with an uncompromising pound of electric guitars. Abandoned are the ground-level observations noted by front man Alex Turner in a heavy and (rightly) exposed Yorkshire accent - here, it is somewhat layered with a captivating eeriness. This is perhaps most notable on track six, "Fire and the Thud", on which Turner is accompanied by softly ticking drums and a bittersweet riff. Yet the likes of "Pretty Visitors" offers something quite contrary. It displays with perfect extravagance Arctic Monkeys' true capabilities. "What came first, the chicken or the d***head?" spits Turner, before ploughing on with chaotic force, until the song melts into its gothic, organ-laden chorus. The likes of "Dangerous Animals" (where, yes, the song's title is shouted out letter by letter - but unforgiving? Really?) is as deliciously engrossing as its fellow tracks, and, lyrically, is superb. "Cornerstone" is something slightly more romantic with a sweet, slow-paced melodic background, whilst "Dance Little Liar" offers a spooky combination of twanging guitars, and the hypnotic ease of Turner's and that of the backing vocals. "The Jeweller's Hands" will most likely provoke the use of "replay" several times, if not just for its beautiful end, where soft chants meet electric guitar solos and the album reaches its spectacular conclusion. "Humbug" certainly leaves the listener asking "What next?" in terms of Arctic Monkeys' development as one of the most significant alternative groups of the last decade. Although regardless of their next move, "Humbug" is a positive stepping stone in the right direction. 10/10.
I would regard myself as one of the most avid listeners of the Arctic Monkeys, and anything by Alex Turner to be honest. But I have to say that 2009's 'Humbug' is the one album by the band that listen to the least. It's still very good, but I think it's the weakest of the five. This album moved away from the sound of the first two, but I always like to see progression. If you didn't care for the 'in-your-face' style of the first releases (which I loved by the way), you might well still be able to appreciate this record, which you'll probably regard as more accomplished.
The songs here are certainly more mature, but their much slower, and it took me a few listens to be able to get used this new style. I must add that this wasn't the case with the next one however, and I do believe Suck It And See to be a far better album. 'Humbug' ultimately receives a 3.5 star rating for me, it's by no means an instant classic, but just let it grow on you, I did, and I'm glad that I gave it that chance. Jamie Cook is a first-class guitar player, Alex Tuner's lyrics and vocals are up there with the very best, and his cheeky trademark words, and sneering delivering are still here, only now with some beautiful melodies in the tunes.
The dreamy 'Secret Door', phenomenal and ingenious 'My Propeller', and the breezy love song 'Cornerstone' are my favourites, but the highlight comes at the very end with the magical closer: 'The Jeweller's Hands', which is a truly haunting piece, with mysterious lyrics which demand multiple interpretations. This gem has the most interesting lyrics of any the Arctic's songs, the words are so very deep, and I regard this one at least to be among my all-time favourites in Arctic Monkeys' backlog. Buy this album, there is much to enjoy.