Album Of The Week - Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
We move forward twenty-six years for our next album with my beloved Arctic Monkeys' 2009 rather surreal album Humbug.
Unlike the two albums that preceded it, Humbug sees the Arctic Monkeys take a much darker turn compared to the fast-paced, action-filled LPs from a couple of years prior. It was recorded entirely in the USA and saw Queens Of The Stone Age producer Josh Homme roped in to help the boys out. He's remained with the band since, along with James Ford, so he must be doing something right as this album is a production masterpiece.
It collates elements of desert-rock with more distorted and prominent bass tones that can be found on the likes of Crying Lightning for instance. It's bass-heavy with rather off-the-wall lyrics that mention confectionery ("strawberry lace";"gobstopper") and Turner manages to entwine all this into the overall theme of a love-hate relationship that this song talks about. Tracks such as Pretty Visitors also feature out-there and enigmatic lyrics, but what is notable about this album is how sinister it is to the listener. In particular, Pretty Visitors is a complete kick-in-the-teeth with its ominous organ backing and drily-delivered lyrics. There's these absurd rhymes present and it's this difference to anything else in their back catalogue that makes this album stand out.
Moreover, Fire And The Thud, is perhaps a little more downbeat and sombre and is a wonderful rarity that more people should discover. The song comes in stages and builds to a rather hectic guitar solo that overpowers its latter part. In a way, portrays the beginning of Turner's conversational lyrical delivery that would be essential for the AM and Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino albums that followed. There are elements of a darker, perhaps more melancholic tone with Cornerstone exemplifying this perfectly. Despite the melodic, lighter guitar backing that rings the bells of Johnny Marr and The Smiths, the lyrical content of the song concerns Turner searching various pubs to find girls that each resemble his ex-lover ("I asked her if I could call her your name..."). The song's story isn't entirely true, but upon occasion during the most recent tour, Turner has thrown in a couple of lines of dialogue between Cornerstone and the following song such as "And all these years later, we’re all really good friends now, remarkably. It didn’t last with the sister. I think she married a chef.", making a recurring joke of the supposed truth of the song.
Overall, Humbug is a real fan-favourite album and is one that should be appreciated in its entirety. It's certainly in my top five and one that even just fleeting fans of the rock genre can enjoy greatly. It appeals to a multitude of audiences and that's the uniqueness of the Arctic Monkeys I suppose.
More musical magnificence to come next week!