Arctic Monkeys Continue to Beat Criticism
Arctic Monkeys – Humbug
September 1, 2009
Victim of Loudness War? Yes
The Arctic Monkeys underwent a great deal of criticism when they first appeared in 2005, mostly due to the level of hype surrounding their second single, “I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor.” The band was catapulted into the spotlight, seemingly from oblivion, and received praise after praise for their take on the British Indie-rock sound. Thus, the backlash against them came fairly quickly, mostly from critics that think themselves too cool for the room and staunchly against anything approaching the mainstream. But which side of the argument had the most merit? Were the Arctic Monkeys a breath of fresh air or a cash-in on the successes of those that came before them?
Well, if Humbug is anything to go by, the former was the correct assessment of the band. The album is a testament to both their songwriting abilities and their prowess as performers and proves to be one of the most interesting albums released thus far this year. While the album doesn’t stray too far away from the sound the band established on its previous records, it wanders just far enough away to keep things interesting. There isn’t a bad song in the bunch and its definitely an album that will keep listeners coming back for repeated listening.
The album opens with “My Propeller,” a sultry rock groove that has a guitar line that would be at home in any of the early James Bond films. Alex Turner’s lyrics may not delve to deep here, but his delivery of them is what gives the song its undeniable hook. “Dangerous,” on the other hand, is the perfect showcase for the strength Turner can display in his lyrics and sets a high standard for the rest of the album’s duration. But it’s a standard that Turner is able to meet and often surpass, making Humbug the most verbally intriguing in the short-but-accomplished Arctic Monkeys catalog.
The album’s pinnacle comes with “Cornerstone,” a touching track that finds the narrator searching for a lost love in every woman he meets and never finding what he so desperately seems to need. But before things get too heavy-handed, the track ends with said narrator finding his lost love’s sister and settling on her instead. It’s that unique brand of British humor that takes a little of the wind out of the sails of a serious moment without completely robbing it of its ability to tug at the heartstrings a bit first.
The bottom line with Arctic Monkeys is that both the over-inflated hype and aggressive criticism should be ignored when considering the band. Instead, they should be viewed as what they are: a British Indie-rock band that surpasses most of its colleagues in terms of songwriting and performance ability. In an Indie scene that is currently dominated by an Emo sound, its refreshing to see a band that simply wants to keep the fascination in rock music by keeping a little fun in the mix. What could possibly be wrong with that?
– Ian Rice
To purchase Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug, please click here.
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