Arctic Monkeys burst onto the scene through their constant bombardment of material through the UK underground scene and their debut release of Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which some consider to be one of the best releases of the decade. How do you follow that up? Favourite Worst Nightmare, the band’s sophomore effort gave a bit of a change, but never lived up to the debut. With Humbug, the quartet really brings out a different attitude and feeling, showing their talents as musicians to create something more than a debut.
The band’s third release starts out with a pummeling drum beat on lead track “My Propeller” and lead singer Alex Turner’s voice arising from beneath the darkened tip-toeing guitar section, “If you can summon the strength/Tow me/I can’t hold down the urgency/You’ve got to make your decent/Slowly/And oil up those sticky keys”, sighting his dire need for the hand of another. The album, co-produced by prog-rocker and lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, brings out another side to the Monkeys, one not many people thought they had in them. Homme as a collaborator showed his presence is clear throughout Humbug, providing some of that texture and layering that hasn’t been present in previous albums by these Sheffield-native lads.
The album features much more of a murky and mysterious feeling to it, with “The Fire and the Thud” as well as “Dance Little Liar”, while highlights of the album consist of the band’s lead single “Crying Lightning” and perhaps the hardest hitting Monkeys song they’ve made, “Pretty Visitors”. The shift in tone does not take away from what the band has done best in the past, Turner’s vocals and that signature guitar tone, as we hear in the album’s second single “Cornerstone”, which are perhaps the best work of Turner lyrically to date.
It’s difficult for a band to follow up such a debut as the greatest selling British album of all time, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, but any band that can reinvent themselves and still be as impactful and resurgent as Arctic Monkeys deserve some credit, which is why we put Humbug into our list.
Here’s our countdown towards WPGU’s Album of the Year:
20. Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3
19. Manchester Orchestra: Mean Everything To Nothing
18. Wolfmother: Cosmic Egg
17. The Flaming Lips: Embryonic
16. Miike Snow: Miike Snow
15. Discovery: LP
14. Silversun Pickups: Swoon
13. Julian Casablancas: Phrazes for the Young
12. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast
11. The Avett Brothers: I and Love and You
10. Japandroids: Post-Nothing
9. Arctic Monkeys: Humbug
#8 coming Wednesday…stay tuned!