Arctic Monkeys ‘Humbug’

humbugWhat do you get when you cross a cheeky indie pop band and Josh Homme – the not so cheeky, indie or poppy frontman of Queens Of The Stone Age. Well, you’d be forgiven for expecting a heavier, dirtier and groovier feel to this, the third offering from the Sheffield quartet.

But no, instead what you get is a surprisingly mellow affair. Coming off the back of side project The Last Shadow Puppets, you can forgive Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner for having a bit of an identity crisis.  After all, even on second effort, 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare, the band showcased a desire to move away from the distinct, but now dated sound of their debut; with tracks such as ‘Only Ones Who Know’ and ‘505’ amongst the band’s finest work to date.

Now in 2009, they’re stuck with that age-old dilemma of wanting to please existing fans, whilst also wanting to grow and mature into something completely different. Lead single ‘Crying Lightning’ plays it safe; no thrills and almost downplaying itself, working in a much more subtle way. Whilst there are still hints of regional charm in Turner’s poetic lyrical style, thankfully it’s no longer the focal point;  a fad that thankfully seems to be on its way out across the genre.

Further on, tracks such as ‘Secret Door’ and ‘Cornerstone’ show real promise; both having that same classic and slick feel that brought Turner’s aforementioned side project The Last Shadow Puppets huge success in 2008; sounding equally fresh and yet knowingly familiar. However, Homme’s influence as producer eventually creeps in, with ‘Fire and The Thud’ being the bands most aggressive song to date, disguised as quite a calm affair before exploding including a mind-melting solo worthy of Hendrix.  Sadly though consistency is still an issue; with the band still not having delivered a fully convincing effort from start to finish. Equally as frustrating is the line “What came first, the chicken or the dickhead” from ‘Pretty Visitors’. Although initially striking, it all feels a bit too adolescent, and will almost certainly be ironically latched onto by the kind of people Turner is attacking. A minor hiccup from a songwriter who rarely displays such a lack of substance.

Overall, Humbug offers up a mixed bag of delights. Ultimately underwhelming, but not without moments of genius; that do just about enough to convince there’s plenty more ideas left in this band. Headline slots at this coming weekend’s Reading and Leeds festivals should be interesting to say the least.

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