Album number one sold faster than any other British record in history and album two, well, to put it gently, didn't do so well. Now, we arrive at album three from hugely popular indie collective Arctic Monkeys and whilst expectations were low, we must say we're pretty damn surprised.
The Monkeys have definitely matured and it's actually a really good thing to witness. The record has taken on an increasingly darker tone, an impressive twist for a band who got huge by shouting about looking good on a dance-floor. Emotionally, musically and atmospherically the L.P surpasses anything they've done before and truthfully, we feel that you have a certain Mr. Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age to thank for that (he produced the record).
His sweaty, desert mood and style can be witnessed all over the record; forcing drums to stomp instead of smash and stretching the guitars out thin and deep instead of keeping them tight and catchy. Swirling, dampened noise and feedback cover the background of Dangerous Animals as the fuzz and front-man Alex Turner battle it out for volume. There are still flourishes of the ghost of Monkeys past, but they really have built solidly upon their less-showcased, indie roots.
There's no escaping the fact that first single Crying Lightning is an unimpressive 'comeback' single for a band as big as the Arctic Monkeys. It keeps in line with the new batch of material well enough but offers nothing more than a moody, forgetful bass rhythm and Turner's semi-interesting lyricism. The chorus does nothing but dampen spirits and overall marks one of the biggest hiccups on the record.
Whilst it's intelligent and a surprising growth in maturity for the band, this doesn't necessarily means its all good: a bulk of which, isn't. It's more alternative than their past but it's still crafted for the mainstream and Turner's vocals provoke annoyance as much as compliment the melodies. He's great at word-play and is obviously talented at writing miniature stories but he still seems intent on singing them in the style of a drunken, riff-raff teen, clumsily conversing to a stranger at the bar. It's bearable and suits the music when he keeps it subtle, but all too often, he overdoes it, almost deliberately thickening the accent to accentuate parts. It'll be eaten up by the drainpipe-jeans and tatty-jacket crowd no doubt but we can't seem to shake the growing frustration that builds throughout the listening process.
Dance Little Liar sits as the second longest track on the record at (almost) precisely four-minutes-and-forty-four-seconds, it also recommends itself as one of the bands more successful experiments present on the L.P. They seem unafraid to delve into new, uncharted territory on Humbug and it definitely deserves respect from previous naysayers (ourselves included). It must be difficult to expand your sound when you've got a major label breathing hot, hell-fire breath down your neck.
The Arctic Monkeys are slowly but surely morphing into an interesting, respectable band and though we feel they still have two or three attempts before truly reaching comfortable terrain, they're still noticeably on their way with this third release. It's not a treat but it's certainly not kick in the testicles, Humbug is a surprising, just above average attempt that has all the hints of future promise but none to spare for itself.