Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Arctic Monkeys - Humbug

Pick your favorite Quentin Tarintino movie out of your collection and play it along with the latest Arctic Monkeys album Humbug and get lost in its dark, dusty, seductive romanticism. Why not crack open a bottle of wine to top it all off?
The Arctic Monkeys are one of the biggest groups on the other side of the pond. However their rise to fame was not your typical behind the music boredom. Much of their early success is credited to the Internet and numerous fan based sites that spread the gospel of Monkeys.
Their first two albums were met with praise from both critics and fans alike. The band set many sales records in England and were even, somewhat controversially, ranked higher than the Beatles in a list of the greatest British albums ever.
Needless to say that this album had some hype behind it. Thank god they delivered.
Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme served as producer and helped the band record the album at his Ranco de Luna studio in the Mojave Desert marking the first time that the band has recorded in America.
The Monkeys soaked in their new environment like a sponge and the music only becomes more intriguing because of it. Fuzzy grooves are effortlessly paired along with rustic tremelo guitars that make for a sound as desolate as the desert horizon. Many of these songs feel like they're being sung by a lone drifter underneath a distant street light outside his lost lover's house.
Humbug begins with the not so subtle "My Propeller"that rumbles and tumbles like a lone tumbleweed. Singer Alex Turner sounds exhausted, and (maybe) a little high as he sings "If you can summon the strength tow me". And what does the lucky person who chooses to help Mr. Turner receive? Why a spin on his propeller of course (hmmm, whatever that means right?).
Every song on this precisely constructed album oozes lo-fi 60s fuzz. Never getting too loud and never too soft, the Arctic Monkeys play the middle ground to perfection. Some of the best examples are "Dangerous Animals", "Secret Doors" and "Fire and the Thud" - all of which are the best songs on the album.
However it goes without saying that not every song is a gem on Humbug. "Pretty Visitors" simply sounds like a fill in song that takes up space before the last song on the album. Turner attempts to shout/chant/rap? like Jack White while the rest of the band tries to keep up. Also, the second half of the album has the tendency to be somewhat forgettable when compared to the first. So in that sense this is a very front ended album and opposed to well rounded.
Overall Humbug is still a very solid collection of songs worth more than one listen. Though not as spectacular as their 2006 debut,Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Humbug is still noteworthy and will have you groovin' and booty shakin' until the next Arctic Monkeys record.
Grade: B+

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