Ever since the 2005 release of “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” — the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history — Arctic Monkeys have remained indie rock darlings. Before they signed to Domino Records in 2005, the Monkeys were one of the first bands to gain a following largely by Internet file-sharing and gigging around their hometown of Sheffield.
And the result of all that hype? Well, Alex Turner’s sexy vocals, the band’s iconic retro-swagger, and their huge, apocalyptic sound have been heard around the world at nearly every music festival on the radar, from Coachella to Glastonbury. And if you follow the hipsterati, you already know that the Monkeys are pretty much the hottest band on the planet.
“Humbug,” the Monkeys’ third studio album, is a jump from the previous “Favorite Worst Nightmare.” Listening to “Favorite” is a touch like trying to walk a puppy that’s totally strung out on coke. I dare you to be still to “D Is For Dangerous.” Try to hold your groove when “Teddy Picker” comes on. “Teddy Picker” and “Old Yellow Bricks” were so the soundtrack to my walk to class.
On “Humbug,” the boys upped the ante, keeping true to the sound that made them famous yet still managing to give us something fresh. The first thing to notice about the record is that it’s heavily guitar-driven, which isn’t unusual for the Monkeys. It’s the same band with a little more oomph — which comes from Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme, who produced “Humbug.” Homme sings background on some of the tracks, too. A match made in heaven if you ask me, because this album shows the huge range in the Monkeys’ sound: a perfect platter of the funk of rock ’n’ roll, spiced with just a pinch of the ambition of heavy metal.
“My Propeller,” the lead song on “Humbug,” is a slow but intense number. Turner’s sultry vocals spread like butter over the guitars and drums that flow underneath. “Secret Door” is an ethereal, un-boring ballad. “Crying Lightning,” the album’s first single, grows on you; it still sounds like the Monkeys, but it is definitely slower, and much less apocalyptic. When I first heard it, I was a little disappointed — not because the song was bad, but mostly because I wanted more “Teddy Picker”s! That’s the Arctic Monkeys everybody knows and loves. My favorite thing about the Monkeys has always been their energetic, rambunctious and yet incredibly precise sound. But of course, a band can’t survive by recording the same albums over and over again.
Don’t worry. For those of you who are jonesing for vintage Monkeys, “Dangerous Animals” will be your BFF. If you didn’t already know how to spell, Alex Turner is there to help you along: D-A-N-G-E-R-O-U-S A-N-I-M-A-L. And you will love “Pretty Visitors,” which in my mind is the best song on the album. It is so the new “Teddy Picker.” I have already started asking my friends, “Which came first, the chicken or the dickhead?” Here, Josh Homme’s influence is felt in the Gothic organ that creeps around, and in the braingasmic tug of war between the hardness, loudness and immediacy of the drums that literally ricochet throughout. Make sure you listen to this one BOMBASTICALLY.
“Humbug” is already one of the hottest indie albums of 2009. Go get it.
So who’s gonna be brave and spearhead the effort to get Arctic Monkeys to play Spring Fling 2010? Is anybody listening?