Fresh from headlining stints at the
Reading and Leeds festivals, Arctic Monkeys return with their highly
anticipated third album, which like its predecessors shot straight
to the number 1 spot on the UK charts.
On initial listens one is instantly
struck by the fact Humbug is a markedly more atmospheric
affair than anything the band have released thus far. The youthful
exuberance of their first two records hasn’t disappeared entirely,
but frontman Alex Turner seems to have discarded the boyish persona
of Whatever People Say I Am... in favour of the lovelorn and
slightly world-weary vocal delivery prevalent on standout tracks
like ‘Crying Lightning’ and ‘Dance Little Liar’. And he pulls it
Possibly as a result of having none
other than Josh Homme co-producing, Humbug is chock full of
slightly sleazy mid-tempo paeans to lost love and infatuation.
Many, like ‘Cornerstone’, contain a palpable sense of longing: ‘She
held me very tightly until I asked awfully politely/Please can I
call you her name?’ ‘Dangerous Animals’ also contains a riff that
wouldn’t have been out of place on 2007s Favourite Worst
Nightmare, though its slightly desperate refrain ‘I’m pinned
down by the dark’ shows a more insular slant to Turner’s songwriting
that stands in contrast to the raucous energy of bygone classics
like ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. He proves his usual
deft touch on the lyrical front however, which wards off the
claustrophobia and leaves each of the album’s ten songs a poetic and
multi-layered affair rewarding of repeat listens.
Though darker and less immediate than
the band’s first two releases, Humbug is nonetheless a
convincing, deceptively tuneful effort that proves once and for all
that Arctic Monkeys are in for the long haul. They might be all
growned up, and fans expecting songs about overzealous bouncers and
drinking in the park may be mildly disappointed, but damn can they
throw a decent tune together.