Sound — 10
The Arctic Monkeys new record will divide fans. Some will renounce it from it's near total departure of their once light and boppy sound. Others will applaud their daring adventure into dark and haunting new areas. I agree with the later. Frontman and lead songwriter Alex Turner's stint with his side project "The Last Shadow Puppets" has changed his songwriting, giving him the confidence to branch out both lyricly and and musicly. The album sounds like an extension to If You Were There Beware, loud and aggressive but winding and spooky. Fans of Queens of the Stone Ages later albums will hear Josh Hommes touch all over the cd, with an almost identical drum mix to Era Vulgaris and Josh even provides guitar to some tracks. Some of the tracks sound as iff they are coming from the same sonisphere as the second half of Lullabyes to Paralyse. The band sound dirty and rawer than they eve have, guitars fuzz all over the shop as the rythym section keeps moving jaggedly across the album. This bigger and wilder sound could be attributed to the Monkeys trek to Joshua Tree, CA to record this album with Josh Homme. The sound is what grabbed me most about this record. It sounds like The Dead Weather's debute album and a Bond theme making babies. it grooves so smoothly but you can hear the evil gritty undertones.
Lyrics — 8
Alex Turner's prowess as a wordsmith is nothing new, but as like every other asset of the record they have evolved. Gone are the narratives of getting kicked out of nightclubs and stories of hookers. Humbug is all about atmosphere. Turner turns phrases on their heads and inserts vulgarity to break up the smooth delivery of his lines "What came first, the chicken or the dickhead". Alex defended his journey and into the land of metaphor on this record in an interview on BBC television. "The lyrics are actually more personel, I felt becasue they were broader I could hide more of my feelings in there". Sometmes you will feel like you are trying to translate a foreign language, which will put off the casual fan, but, it is something that die hard Monkey fans will relish. Alex's singing is undeniably better than ever. He still keeps a fairly limited range but his melodic elocution of each syllable that drips out of his mouth is completly engaging and when he sings the chorus of Crying Lightning it sticks to your brain like peanut butter.
Overall Impression — 9
I consider myself a particularly hard critic. Those who hated this CD will surely disagree with me. I recieved this CD early to be reviewed for a magazine I work for. As soon as I listened to it once through I was genuinely hooked. I am going to buy the official copy when it is released, despite having a free copy already. The Fire and the Thud, the albums centerpiece whicj features guest vocals from Alison Mosshart (The Kills, The Dead Weather) and Josh Homme (QOTSA, TCV) has to be my favourite track. It grooves like lounge music on acid. However it is not perfect. The album is only 10 tracks long, not including special bonus tracks. It finishes leaving you wanting more and as the songs are quite short (only two songs breach the four minuet mark) wich leaves me questioning how long the album will hold my attention after a while. But still, I have hope that the layering of sonic landscapes and cryptic lyrics should keep me entranced for a good deal of time. This is so far my favourite album of the year and certainly the best British rock CD this year. An instant classic. It's dirty, it's different, it's dark, scary and stimulating. A pleasent suprise for someone who took a long time to warm to the Arctic Monkeys first two records.