On the Arctic Monkeys’ first two albums, the most distinguishing factor was the amount of punch that frontman Alex Turner delivered in his riled-up vocals and lead guitar riffs. Songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “Still Take You Home” are the epitome of club rock: high energy with a little bit of crazy and a little bit of raunchy. Their lyrics focused on sour relationships, awkward one-night stands and jam-packed nightclubs.
So what’s different about the band’s third album? “Humbug” has the clear influence of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, who dipped his hands in the recording process as the album’s co-producer. Gone are the band’s wired solos and bouncing bass lines: the collaboration produced darker, more relaxed songs with deeper vocals and a harder-hitting rhythm section; something to spin in the background of a rainy late-night drive.
Turner has always been a wizard with words, so the album’s witticisms are no surprise. But the introspective and analytical lyrics on “Humbug” surely are, hinting at an existential awakening during the band’s two-year hiatus. His vocals are barely recognizable at first – halfway through the first track I forgot that I was listening to the Arctic Monkeys – but they lock in tightly with the dramatic drum fills and slow, sliding bass lines.
Will the band’s fans dig the latest album? Well, the new sound is a striking jump from their previous incarnations, so it might not appeal to all ears. Don’t get it twisted: they haven’t lost their edge; they have simply exchanged it for a heavier, more mature sound. Just imagine the old Arctic Monkeys in slow motion, with a thicker streak of seriousness.
Catch the Arctic Monkeys’ live performance of songs both old and new on Sunday, Oct. 4 on the AMD stage at the Austin City Limits music festival.
Album release date: Aug. 25, 2009.
Sounds like: The band had a love child with Queens of the Stone Age, the Cali rockers that brought you “No One Knows” and “Sick Sick Sick”.
Why you should care: The band will be sharing the stage with Flogging Molly, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Ben Harper the first weekend of October when they hit up the state capital’s annual fall music festival, Austin City Limits.