Arctic Monkeys Retrospective: ‘Humbug’ Review

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In anticipation of Arctic Monkeysnew album ‘AM’ (due out 09/09), David Handley continues to look back on the indie heroes’ discography, revisiting their 2009 album ‘Humbug’.

After releasing ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare‘, Arctic Monkeys went on a brief hiatus, as Alex Turner released an album with Miles Kane, under the name The Last Shadow Puppets.
So how would the band sound when they reconvened to work on their third record? They moved to America and gained a new mentor in Josh Homme who co-produced the album, which was partly recorded at his studio in the desert. More mature, ambitious and progressive than its predecessors, how does ‘Humbug‘ measure up today?

The contrast in sound is the biggest talking point with this album; it marked the first time that Arctic Monkeys had left the ‘indie’ genre behind to explore harder, progressive rock. Influences included Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath. This was a real evolution for the band; they’d grown up in their time apart and really started to explore different sounds and influences, this is apparent on ‘Humbug‘ as the sound is so different to what fans had come to expect.

Humbug‘ is the album which has most benefitted from time; songs that at the time were dismissed for being less instant and commercial have now had a chance to grow and seep into the brains of fans, this process has improved the overall feel of the album and its songs.

Another thing that this album allowed Arctic Monkeys to do was break free. They were no longer the indie darlings that everyone wanted them to be – this album broke down that wall and they were now free to grow and reinvent themselves.

Cornerstone’ is one of the best songs the band have ever written, and it gives the record a real centre piece. It was the most ‘poppy’ sounding song on the album, and along with ‘Crying Lighting‘ gave the record the commercial appeal to still make it a success.

Slower burning tracks such as ‘Dance Little Liar’ ‘ Secret Door’ and ‘Potion Approaching’ have now had the chance to grow and be explored. This uncovers new depths to each track and helps them become just as vital as any track the band had recorded previously.

Turners’ lyrics were also evolving here; they were less character based, more abstract and wound their way inside your head. This is the moment that he grew from a promising lyricist to the real deal; his lyrics became poetic, artistic and cleverer than before. He had really honed his craft; this is the highlight of the album.

Humbug‘ will go down as the album where Arctic Monkeys broke free. It may not be their best, or most successful but it is certainly the most important in terms of their growth as a band.

8/10

David Handley
David Handley is a 26 year old from Wolverhampton. He has blogged for Sabotage Times and Culture / Trash among others and runs a Literature blog for The Express & Star. He is a lyric fan and loves all sorts of music, but will always have a soft spot for early 2000's indie. CURRENTLY LISTENING TO: Augustines, THE XX, Blossoms. David can be found at @DavidHandley on twitter or at his blog - https://dkhandley.wordpress.com

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