Arctic Monkeys – ‘Humbug’

September 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: Music Australia Guide #69 , September 2009.

Arctic Monkeys
Humbug
****
(Domino/EMI)

It could almost be said that Sheffield juggernaut Arctic Monkeys are victims of their own precociousness. While their breakthrough debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006) and world-beating follow-up Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007) have taken them to the top of the Gen Y Brit-rock game, their youthful charms have garnered little in way of genuine respect. The general consensus has always been one of temporality; the notion that their exuberance and raw talent would only get then so far before they would lose their way. If there’s anything strange, murky and at times difficult new album Humbug confirms, it’s that the Alex Turner and co. aren’t in the game for cheap thrills. While there are plenty of recognisably Arctic traits to this record – compact, gutsy compositions, ample quantities of snide lyricism and pure melodic hooks – its focus rests in the previously untested landscape of dense, shadowy atmosphere. It’s written all over moments like the rangy spaghetti western guitars of opener My Propeller, while tracks like the narcotic Secret Door and dirge-like Dance Little Liar echo with a psychedelic spookiness. Much of this widescreen sensibility can be attributed to Queens of the Stone Age main man Josh Homme, enlisted by the quartet as an unlikely production hand. But Humbug is very much a Arctic Monkeys record. It may lack some of the immediacy for which they’re renowned, but this is an album that shows us a band in the throws of experimentation, flux and growth. It is the first real sign that they’re playing for keeps.

Dan Rule

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