Humbug review by Arctic Monkeys

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  • Released: Aug 24, 2009
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (213 votes)
Arctic Monkeys: Humbug

Sound — 9
With plenty of debate to go around, the Arctic Monkeys have been critical darlings since delivering 2006's Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. It seemed like the British indie rock group could do no wrong, particularly in the eyes and ears of the NME publication and a feast of award shows and many would say that attention is deserved. Through it all, there was always somewhat of a happy-go-lucky, garage rock vibe that popped up in the Arctic Monkeys' music. Things have changed and in a rather good way. With their latest release Humbug, the band has opted for a sleeker, mellower, and moodier album. The quartet might claim that producer Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) didn't have a massive influence on their sound, but Humbug indicates otherwise. And again, regardless of what the setup was in the studio or who pulled the strings, it still worked out beautifully. From the opening track My Propeller, the tone is a mellow, cool one. While the Arctic Monkeys' past two records had at least a handful of upbeat, danceable tracks, Humbug is all about creating an ambient mood. My Propeller is the perfect way to initiate that approach with its deep bass and guitar lines, not to mention the smooth vocal delivery of Alex Turner. Don't let the fact that everything is taken down a notch scare you. There is some gorgeous instrumentation, with quirky guitar lines added underneath vocal sections and interesting percussion timing included to the mix. Homme does offer his guitar/vocal skills to some of Humbug, with the tracks Dance Little Liar and Fire and the Thud sounding extremely like a product of Queens of the Stone Age. There's a slide/lap steel used on Fire and the Thud that is undeniably Homme, and even the vocals on Dance Little Liar feel influenced by the frontman. Those two songs are not necessarily carbon copies of QOTSA, however, and the addition of backing vocals from Dead Weather's Alison Mosshart certainly adds another texture to Fire and the Thud.

Lyrics — 10
When you combine the vocal phrasing style with the actual lyrical content on Humbug, you have a winner through and through. This is not a case of regurgitated lyrics, and you'll hear something novel in every track. Highlights on the record are My Propeller (It is a necessary, evil; No cause for emergency; Borrow the beak of a bald eagle; Oh, momentary synergy) and Crying Lightning (Said your mistaken if you're thinking that I haven't been caught cold before; As you bit into your strawberry lace; And then a flip in your attention in the form of a gobstopper).

Overall Impression — 9
The Arctic Monkeys can't be accused of following the same formula to stay in the graces of both critics and fans. Humbug is an album pretty much devoid of upbeat numbers (with the exception of a song like Pretty Visitors), but the band is still able to impress with creative minimalism. Whether guitarist Jamie Cook selects a dreamy effect to be placed only on certain lines underneath the verse or Alex Turner delivers a lyric in a completely unexpected manner, this is a forward-thinking offering. Yes, you can make several comparisons to Queens of the Stone Age throughout, but honestly it's unexpected for the Arctic Monkeys to even attempt that type of style. It's an effective direction for the band that continues to surprise.

34 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ChordMonger : they got boring. this album starts nowhere and goes nowhere.
    Give it about 6 listens, Everyone thought this the first time.
    + 1 to josh. Great album, awesome progression over 3 albums. Sit by yourself with some quality herb or a drink, and see where it takes you. A-
    Some people seemed to be shocked at the direction being taken with this album, but it would seem different if you compared it with their first. If you hold it next to Favourite Worst Nightmare, the transition seems far more natural. I'm also pleased with Alex Turner's evolution as a lyricist. The best part of this record is that each one of these tracks has so much personality... it creates a real diversity between the songs.
    Arktischer Affe wrote: "Whatever People say I am, Thats what i'm not" was good, "Favourite Worst Nightmare" was great...but "Humbug" is killing them all....fantastic album
    I totally agree, they just keep getting better and better, not to mention all their eps and singles that are fantastic as well. keep it coming. Stoked to see em on the 14
    i think it's funny to see how each album got it's own influences. i mean the first was like Sex Pistols, The Libertines, maybe The Police and shit like that. in the second i noticed like more Oasis, The Stone Roses... but this one it's pure Black Sabbath, Cream, Queens Of The Stone Age and tons of 60's art rock. Great band i think it's like a mix of the greatest british bands
    I don't like Arctic Monkeys but I thought I would give this a listen and I liked it straight away!
    Was lucky enough to get hands on a promo version. This whole album is in my top 25 most played playlist!! I LOVE IT!!!!! Keep up the awesome work
    At first, it seemed liked a very depressing, boring album. After listening to it 4 times, I think it is defiantly the best album by the monkeys. Best songs are Pretty Visitors, Crying Lightening, And Sketchhead.
    hendrix n page
    From what i've heard this album sounds a bit depressing. even the arctic monkeys are turning dark
    i've loved arctic monkeys for ages but this album is a bit of a let down. their older stuff was better. humbug is still good though
    So far I've only heard Crying Lightning, and I'm hearing some strong remnants of The Last Shadow Puppets, which is really good, the band now sounds more melancholic. I'm gonna buy the album soon, but so far...I like that they've matured!
    great album, i bought it (with money, unlike half of the world which illegally downloaded it) and i love it. i liked their older stuff a bit, but i knew they had a lot of potential and i love josh homme, so i figured i would give it a shot. LOVE IT
    I'm a huge Arctic Monkeys nut (I even went so far as to buy their first, very rare EP) and thus far I can't say I'm a fan of their new album. But everyone says to give it some more listens, so we will see...
    Solo Wing
    I don't understand how people can say they got boring- Is tempo the only thing some of you people require? Great album from the Monkeys, they've really developed and progressed magnificently.
    You people are stone crazy if you're not liking this album. I was a casual fan at most till this. I am loving this. Wicked spin on all the listed influences and more.
    Arktischer Affe
    "Whatever People say I am, Thats what i'm not" was good, "Favourite Worst Nightmare" was great...but "Humbug" is killing them all....fantastic album
    I am a huge Arctic Monkeys fan and this album failed to please on any of the many factors that attracted me to them in the first place, the lyrics are meaningless the voices are dark and all the zeal thy used to have. all in all i give tha album a 6
    fantastic album, great band. hte only one of the current 'indie' bands who are actually interesting
    So great, i've always liked them but didn't ever expect anything this good
    LOVE this album! Clicked straight away. I must admit, i still prefer their older stuff though..
    I've always been a huge fan of them, favorite album being WPSIATWIN, and Humbug is no let down. Wonderful album in so many ways, although it may take a few listens for people to love it.
    I could imagine it would grow on me but it isn't what I wasn't expecting. The have lost the British sound they had and it has been replaced with a more American sound.
    its a good progression and i love the album, but nothing tops the old songs obviously. Cornerstone is such a well written song. Oh and that first review, talks WAY to much about Josh Homme and QOTSA, need to stick the the Monkeys and the album!
    matt helders has stated in several recent interviews that the sound of the album was influenced by josh homme but they wrote all the songs before the entered the studio. turner's lyrics are as good as ever. brilliant album from one of the best bands around.
    flambe chicken
    Top quality album, and I think the QOTSA-influence in the musical direction is less down to Josh Homme producing and providing backing vocals, and more down to the fact that the guys have stated that they are massive Queens fans. Would recommend this to anyone.
    Awesome album, i like the fact that Josh Homme produced some of this. It is definatly more "grown up". Pretty Visitors is probably one of the best songs on here.
    Arctic Monkeys played perhaps the worst set ive seen on stage at leeds festival this year almost all their songs were new songs, so no one recognised (or liked) them, and the singer was completely stoned anyway! their albums have got progressively worse if you ask me; their first album was good, second album was mediocre, then we have this...