Arctic Monkeys unveil new, relaxed sound on Humbug

arctic monkeys humbug

I listened to this album once. I hated it. I slept on it. I put it on again.

The Arctic Monkeys, who gained quick recognition in the UK upon the release of their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, are now on their third studio album, Humbug. The name seems to say it all. Deception, nonsense! The band is known for their historically fast-paced, jittery, punk-influenced sound (see: “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor,” “Teddy Picker”) with a slower, more intense feel on other tracks (“When The Sun Goes Down,” “Fake Tales Of San Francisco”), eliciting easy comparisons to The Clash and The Smiths. But Humbug is different, and it’s clear from track one. So it’s not to say that it’s a bad album, by any means. It’s just different, and not exactly expected.

The band has admitted to listening to a lot of Cream and Jimi Hendrix leading up to Humbug, and the influence shows. In place of the heavy, tight tracks are slower ethereal songs that show a more relaxed albeit equally confident group. On “Secret Door” they sound an awful lot like The Doors. Like a cover of Strange Days in the band’s own style. Weird. Even on songs that sound like their old stuff (“Potion Approaching”), they sound mellowed down. It’s as if the band has been cruising at a breakneck speed for three years and is finally taking a huge breath and relaxing. It might actually be exactly what they needed.

The British boys have been heavily critiqued from day one and it’s nice to see them play around with their already-popular sound. Music critics like risk-takers and love successful ones, so it’s no surprise early reviews have been positive. We have yet to see if the old audience will bite at Humbug, but singles “Crying Lightning,” “My Propeller,” and “Pretty Visitors” are catchy enough to carry it through the rest of the summer. Although I found it tough to overcome the initial shock of such a different record, I will admit that Humbug is remarkably well-written and shows maturity and progress from the ratty British kids. But where can they go from here? I have no idea, but I trust they’ll surprise us wonderfully again and again.

Arctic Monkeys – “Crying Lightning” (MP3 removed)

Arctic Monkeys – “Secret Door” (MP3 removed)

Arctic Monkeys – “Potion Approaching” (MP3 removed)

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