Humbug Review

artist: Arctic Monkeys date: 01/05/2011 category: compact discs
Arctic Monkeys: Humbug
Released: August 19, 2009
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: Domino Records/Warner Bros
Number Of Tracks: 10
With Josh Homme in the producers chair for the Arctic Monkeys Humbug CD, the indie rock band takes on a sleek new sound.
 Sound: 8.3
 Lyrics: 8.1
 Overall Impression: 8.4
 Overall rating:
 Reviewer rating:
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reviews (8) 44 comments vote for this album:
overall: 9.3
Humbug Reviewed by: UG Team, on september 04, 2009
10 of 11 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 9

Lyrics: 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). // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 9

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overall: 9
Humbug Reviewed by: israels_son, on september 04, 2009
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 10

Lyrics: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 9

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overall: 9.3
Humbug Reviewed by: unregistered, on january 15, 2010
3 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: The sound is darker on this album than previous Arctic Monkeys albums, It is produced by Josh Homme of QOTSA who delivers his own influence on the albums sound, most apparent on The Fire And The Thud, the whole album is confirmation of what some believed after listening to Favorite Worst Nightmare, the Monkeys are changing, growing up if you will. But in my opinion that is for the best. The new sound they have unearthed for themselves consisted of sharp drumbeats and reverbed guitar melodies, and shows that the Arctic Monkeys are evolving and are not another one of 'those bands'. // 9

Lyrics: Alex Turners lyrical skills are flawless on this album, he is a poet of modern music, my favorite examples of this are in Potion Approaching and Pretty Visitors. He has progressed from telling tales of winding up policemen (Riot Van) to love ballads like Cornerstone. His voice (For lack of a better term) is bang-on for this album, especially on The Fire And The Thud. His voice and the music become a single sound throughout the album and merge together magnificently. // 10

Overall Impression: This album is a slow burner, it takes several listens to grasp the dramtic change from the previous albums, but once it does hit it becomes a magnificant musical achievement for the band that originally sung songs about trying to get into clubs. But even for the amazing sound and great lyrics, this is still my least favorite Arctic Monkeys album, but isn't that a sign of a great band, some people might believe they are gradually outdating but let me assure you this album is essential for anyone who loves the Arctic Monkeys and for anyone else that wishes to hear a great modern album. 01. My Propeller: at first you may belive it is a somewhat dreary start to the album, but like a lot of the songs on the album it will grow on you. 8/10 02. Crying Lightning: a song made with a chorus that will have people singing along at live gigs 8/10 03. Dangerous Animals: very good lyrically but i cant help but find the parts of it annoying. 7/10 04. Secret Door: great song with different parts with different tempos and moods, very catchy chorus. 8/10 05. Potion Approaching: one of the best of the lot, with an abrupt ending that captures the essence of the album 9/10 06. Fire And The Thud: good song with catchy chorus and melodic guitar playing. 8/10 07. Cornerstone: magnificent song that will have you engrossed in the story as well as the music 9/10 08. Dance Little Liar: the most unArcticMonkeyish your ever going to hear but it is a good way to show the evolution of the band 7/10 09. Pretty Visitors: this is the highlight of the album for me, it is a lyrical masterpiece and has a verse that stays true the Arctic Monkesy of old. 10/10 10. The Jeweler's Hand: great ending to the album as Turners voice drowns over the music and a large variety of instruments 9/10 // 9

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overall: 9.3
Humbug Reviewed by: Kebabmashine, on september 04, 2009
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: When I first heard the single Crying Lightning I was totally surprised by their new sound, but after the first listen I really got into it and looked forward to the album. And yes, I think they really changed their sound, there is only one track that could be considered as an typical Arctic Monkeys song (Pretty Visitors). They got a lot more dark and I think the fact that Josh Homme produced most of the tracks can cleary be heard. The guitar solo in Crying Lightning is a quite good example for that. Also Jamie (Cook, guitarist) stated that the time they made the album they mostly were listening to Black Sabbath and Cream, and you can hear that too, which in my opinion is quite a good thing. The sudden change into the slower part of "Potion Approaching" for example really shows me that they moved forward. What I didn't was expecting were the tracks that have kind of a Country/Folk feel to them, like Secret Door or Cornerstone. I wasn't keen on them first but like it was with YFWM you just need to listen the tracks a few times before you really can enjoy them. // 9

Lyrics: The lyrics are very different from the other albums. First they deal with other subjects. There are no more lyrics about night outs and party and stuff. I think Alex's lyrics from the past were kind of a trademark for the Arctic Monkeys and that he apparently doesn't write such lyrics anymore can seem bad to some people but to me (I always enjoyed his older lyrics) it shows quite good that he grew up. Also, he's changed his writing style. It isn't always clear about he is singing and I think the fact that he got more 'poetic' is also a sign for his maturity. Also I think his singing evolved and I think the work as 'Last shadow puppets' really helped him to improve his singing skills. // 9

Overall Impression: To some it may seem bad that they aren't the "upbeat-and-fast-time-signatures-Arctic Monkeys" and I don't think that this album will catch up with the chart positions of the previous albums but I think I wouldn't be very happy if they would've made another album like that. I mean, I really loved WPSIATWIN and YFWN but I think it is a very good thing that they changed. Because I think someday they would've just been one of those "always-sound-the-same-bands" of which I think there are so many out there. I think making the 3rd album after 2 really good albums is even harder than making a 2nd after an successful debut. But I think they really got mature(I think i said that enough) and I'm really happy with that. After the big hype about their debut and after everything with this 'famous-through-the-internet'-thing they finally have become a 'normal' Indie-Rock band from England. I'm really looking forward what their future albums will sound like. // 10

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overall: 4
Humbug Reviewed by: MisterMarston, on september 07, 2009
0 of 12 people found this review helpful

Sound: A definate change is present here in the Monkeys' third outing 'Humbug'. However is this change good, or bad? In all my genuine fan honesty, it is a big dissapointment. Whilst it is a 'maturing' in some people's eyes, I personally beg to differ and say it is a lesson in tough love for Alex Turner as he is slowly losing his tight ability to write mature and entertaining songs. Just because the lyrics revolved around running away from coppers, or being caught drug-smuggling doesn't mean they weren't 'mature songs'. Here's a question i ask. For anyone out there who writes songs that they're proud of, think about the one's you AREN'T proud of. The one's that had nonsensical lyrics just put in beacuse they fitted your melody perfectly. The one's that were pointlessly depressive, and attempted to create a meaning but failed miserably. For me, that sums up this album. Whilst musically it is haunting, whistly, buzzing, vibrant, almost earthquake-like on the speakers, the actual songs fall short of impressing. Some melodies I can admit are catchy, classic Monkeys, however they're over run with this feeling of pointless dread and atmosphere that doesn't suit the album - as unlike a Pink Floyd album or Bowie album, this albums song have no variety or soul point. For fans of the classic monkeys, it's a step backwards then another step left towards Alex's side project 'The Last Shadow Puppets'. It's evident he's struggled as a songwriter to seperate the two band's and their fanbases, and has got caught up in the Shadow Puppets edgy sound. For fans of dark, ominous music - i give you the 5. Songs are overall fine, but there's certainly better sounding albums out there of this genre. Think of it like a 'Rock' band like Greenday, trying to reach further into the genre and try and make an album like 'Iron Maiden'. They'll never be as good, so just stick to Maiden. Thats what I feel here. I'd rather listen to 'Divison Bell' by Pink Floyd than this attempt by the Monkeys. Songs to look out for: 'Secret Door' 'Cornerstone' 'Crying Lightning' // 5

Lyrics: As I've touched on previously - absolute tosh. Such a dissapointment that Alex could not differenciate what the Monkeys achieved musically as a band, and what the Shadow Puppets achieved. There's no doubt people will praise these lyrics and say, 'intellegent - like LOL IN THE SONG CRYING LIGHTNING HE KEEPS MENTIONING NAMES OF SWEETS!' but there is no point! There's no point in referencing strawberry laces and pick n' mixes in Crying lightning! There's no point in asking us to spin Alex's 'Propeller'! NONE OF IT MAKES SENSE. I can assure you. You can sit and read the lyrics as I've done, trying to follow the album - but you'll get nowhere. The inspirational, story-like, witty and catchy lyrics of the previous two albums have now been replaced by unnescacerry longer words. Just because you have a good vocabulary Alex doesn't mean you have to flash it off. Alex is still a great singer however, can't knock that. However the darker, rockier songs on this album don't match up to the more melodic and (very rare) fun songs, as that's what he's best at doing. // 3

Overall Impression: Overall the Monkeys third outing is a brave and audacious attempt into broadening their musical talent, that falls short on so many levels. I'm not ripping into the band for changing their style, I'm ripping into them for changing it and failing to create good music as a result. The Killers 'Day & Age', for any fan will know, is a completely different album to their prior two. For one thing, the songs are almost techno-like with an absence of guitar and a replacement of synths. However the album was fantastic and catchy and definately one of the best. Not the case here, sadly. Most impressive songs have to be 'Secret Door', 'Cornerstone' and their first released single from this album 'Crying Lightning' - definately a grower. What I love about it: Definately the band shows competence in not being content with creating repetetive music. Different sound from the 'Whatever People say I Am, that's What I'm Not' and 'Favourite Worst Nightmire' Yorkshire boys. What I hate about it: Just not a good album. Hands have to be held up now, it's different - but it's just a lot of nonsensical, relatively un-catchy and un-melodic grunge. Definately would not reccomend any readers' buying, especially for classic Monkeys fans. Get the Last Shadow Puppets album, it's virtually the same music - and is far better. Thank you. // 4

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overall: 9
Humbug Reviewed by: thenirve, on december 21, 2009
0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: The Sound on this album is absolutely flawless. Josh Homme recorded this record perfectly. Its sound is near the perfect mix of indie and alternative that I dream of in my own recording studio. The sound on the record is just overwhelming at first listen. The first time I heard it I immediately knew that I NEEDED to hear it again! Crying lightening was the first song I heard from the record and it was a completely new and interesting sound that I had not heard before. The sound combined with the recording is nearly unheard of in my head. The very raw indie humored verse mixed with the harsh crunch of the guitars and the very clean blend of the drums compiled with Alex Turners vocals is nearly perfect intertwined. There is the same base that we all know very well, That Arctic Monkeys rigidness that we all love, with Alex's raw vocal talent. But this record is very different from My Favourite Worst Nightmare and almost a complete opposite from Whatever People Say I Am Thats What I'm Not, while still calling themselves The Arctic Monkeys. // 9

Lyrics: The Lyrics are my absolute favourite part of the Arctic Monkeys and always have been. One lyric for some reason always stands out for me during Pretty Visitors Turner forcefully states "What came first the chicken or the dickhead." Truly a brilliant analogy especially for a lyric to a rock song. Crying Lightning is also very poignant in its lyrical approach. "The next time that I caught my own reflction, it was on its way to meet you," I just don't even know what to say about his lyrics. They are as modernly poetic as they come. And Cornerstone (my favourite song as of today) is a song about a lost love, which he replaces with a girl that either oddly resembles the lost love, or a girl that is closely related to that lost love. Truly brilliant! // 9

Overall Impression: First of all I would like to say that this album, in my mind, is hands down the album of the year. There are a few other albums that can compete with it like: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Merriweather Post Pavillion, Bitta Ortica, Lungs etc. But Humbug is as perfect and round as an album can become. My only complaint from the album is it is way too short! I would have loved one more tune, maybe a tune to change the pace a bit. The album runs on this very almost dampening mood. I love dampening almost depressing music, but I feel that it would have been more popular if it had a break in the feel. Nonetheless, Its brilliance is nearly unparalleled this year. And just to give a little more elaborance in my opinion of this album here are the tracks and my personal rating: 01. My Propeller: I love this song and its feel. Truly brilliant, and just when you think its over, its not! 11/10 02. Crying Lightning: one of my favourite songs of all time! Too much to say about it. LYrics, sound, musical perfection. GREAT SOLO! 15/10 03. Dangerous Animals: very rarely do I hear a song with spelling in it that I can take seriously. This is a powerful song! "Makes my head pirouette" 10/10 04. Secret Door: lovely song that gives me chills. 10/10 05. Potion Approaching: great Rhythm on the drums. Eerie feel by Turner 9/10 06. Fire And Thud: great song with a wonderful mix of guitar and drums in the heart. Interesting lyrics 9/10 07. Cornerstone: top songs of all time. I can't review this song without writing a discertation. 20/10 08. Dance Little Liar: awesome song with a sinister title and undertone. 9/10 09. Pretty Visitors: powerful song. Some of my favourite lyrics are on here. 11/10 10. The Jewellers Hands: very appropriate ending to the album. I have a very uneasy feeling when I hear this song. If a song has that power, then it must have an inate force behind it. 12/10 Beautiful album. It really is. I cannot say enough about it. // 9

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overall: 8.3
Humbug Reviewed by: armarco, on january 29, 2010
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Sound: When I start writing about this album, I remebered almost automatically about the first video from the arctic monkeys, called "I bet that you look good on the dancefloor", you see, comparing that single with "Crying Lightning", the band's new single, it's almost obvious the different style that each song has, Humbug proportionates a really well worked sound, really heading into Alternative Rock mixed with Indie, Humbug has a more... let's say dark sound, it's more mature, the guitar riifs and the battery and the bass it's all really well put together, and there is, of course, the main factor for this change of sound, it's their producer (at least in my opinion), that is Queens of the Stone Age's singer wich I'm trying my best to remeber his name right now but I can't, Arctic Monkeys have been changing their style since their second album, but in Humbug they have reached, I believed the top of this change. I still enjoy a lot the Arctic Monkeys, maybe because I'm a fan til' death. I believe that the thing you can highlight from the whole album is the harmony between the guitar and Alex's voice, that's something that they always were good at, harmonizing the instruments. // 8

Lyrics: I've always enjoyed Alex Turner's lyrics because they were never too deep and neither too dumb, it's like in the half. You can surely enjoy his lyrics, but its kind of hard for you to fall in love with them. For example, in the number 4, "Secret Door", it's a really alternative type of lyric, really metaphoric kind of lyric. Alex has always been writing this way pretty much since "Five minutes with Arctic Monkeys" which is a not recognized studio album of 5 songs... What impressed me the most was definitely The jeweler's hand lyric, I believe is the most odd kind of lyric in the all album, and definitely the most deep one, I'm not gonna talk about what it means to me, but I believe that everyone, after listening to this song, will realize that is a really well worked lyric and well adapted to the band. // 8

Overall Impression: Ok, now here comes the hard part, is Humbug the best album of the Arctic Monkeys so far? Well, in my opinion, is the best album, because the lyrics are more mature and the music is much more worked out. It's not my favorite album of the Arctic Monkeys, because I love the first one that sounded just like they were recording in their garage or something, which is something really cool. A thing that I love about this album is that the Monkeys have finally found their sound, and I know that if they stay playing like this they will get to the top easily... or maybe not, who knows? A thing I hated about the album... let me see... the fact that it still not on sale in my city in Brazil hehe... This is an album that perhaps you're not going to listen to it 4 times a day just like the first or the second one, but it's definitely an album that you have to listen and you must have it, because it's simply a genius work. Another thing to be said is that, another bands I like, for example The Killers or Korn or even, yes... even... it hurst me deep to say this... even Pearl Jam have always when realeasing 3 albums, at least one of them, has been a deception, not because it wasn't good, but because it wasn't good enough compared with the other albums, more especifically, The Killers with Day and Age completely dissapoint me, when I was expecting for another "Uncle Johnny" or another "Mr. Brightside", they come'd out with "Spaceman"... it really let me down, but the Arctic Monkeys have three albums so far, and al of them have kept their level, thank you very much for your time. // 9

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overall: 7.7
Humbug Reviewed by: !jared!, on january 05, 2011
0 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: Humbug is the Arctic Monkeys third full lengh album and they have matured alot from their last album Favourite Worst Nightmare. Humbug had a larger, more full sound then the last album. But it was alot darker and not as energetic as their old albums. They experimented alot with new sounds and they created a great album but not the album anyone would expect from the Arctic Monkeys. // 7

Lyrics: Alex Turner never lets me down. His lyrics are so creative and well thought out that they will catch anyones attention. The way he sings these fantastic lyrics is not as great as he used to be. He has definatly grown up alot from the last album. But he seems to be just talking most of the lyrics like in the song The Jeweller's Hands he sounds like he is just talking the whole song. But never the less Turner makes it work and they created a fantastic album. // 8

Overall Impression: Humbug is a great album but it is not nearly as catchy or fun to listen to as Favourite Worst Nightmare. Humbug did have its moments with the songs Dangerous Animals and Pretty Visitors. Those sounded like they could be older Arctic Monkey songs. But I also did love some of the darker songs like My Propeller and Crying Lightning. This album is definatly an album I would listen to alot but not as much as there early albums. But I would recomend this to any Arctic Monkey fan out there. So I give this album a solid 8. // 8

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