Arctic Monkeys – Humbug: First Listen


We here at OMH Towers have had our first listen today to Humbug, the third album from those Sheffield tykes, Arctic Monkeys. A full review will follow in due course, but here are our initial thoughts, on first listen:

Humbug, like its predecessor, is a definite grower. In fact, casual Arctic fans may well scratch their head at the lack of spiky, sardonic little indie-pop songs with Alex Turner's trademark observational lyrics. Indeed, there's a fair few songs on here that may just feel like formless jams the first time you listen to them.

Yet, also like its predecessor, you'll keep coming back to it. And, after a few plays, it will all click into place, and you'll wonder why you ever doubted them in the first place. 

Co-produced by regular collaborator James Ford and Josh Homme, Humbug has the latter's influence written all over it. Anyone who's heard Queens Of The Stone Age's Rated R will certainly hear a few familiar sounds.

The other big surprise is that Alex Turner has started to sing, rather than the half-spoken vocal of the early days. It's a sign of how much confidence the Last Shadow Puppets side-project instilled in him – the croon from that album has certainly been carried forward here.

Early highlights include Cornerstone (a sweet, swaying, tear-jerker that could well be the best thing Turner's ever written, and should be Christmas number one if there's any justice in the world), Potion Approaching (a frankly barmy mesh of desert metal, fairground music and swamp blues) and the adrenaline-fuelled thrill of Pretty Visitors, which has huge slabs of QOTSA guitar riffs and Turner sneering, for reasons unknown, "what came first, the chicken or the dickhead?"

Although this isn't an album with any obvious singles, the impression given is that each time you listen to it, you'll have a different favourite track – which is surely the mark of a successful album.

So far in 2009 we've had contenders for album of the year from the likes of The Horrors, Wild Beasts, Animal Collective and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Expect Humbug to also make a pretty high appearance.

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