Sunday, May 6, 2012

Desert Island album II: Humbug by The Arctic Monkeys

So, last night I had a dream about Guns n Roses despite the fact that, like everyone else, I spent the whole day playing the Beastie Boys back catalogue. Why on eartah did I dream of them?
I woke up a bit worried that I would be humming the Guns all day, I mean I loved them back in the days and they were one of the first band I REALLY got into but, well, today their tunes are still fab at beer-filled parties but maybe not as the soundtrack to a rainy Sunday in May.

My rock genes HAD to do something and put a wrong right...I felt an urge to listen on The Arctic Monkey's third album Humbug to remember all that is not cliché about rock' n roll (and I do love a good cliché or two)
Humbug then, definitely an album I'd have to have on a desert Island, just because 3 years after its release and thousands of listens later, I still discover subtleties about this magnificent piece of art and I always get that rush of excitement and pleasure. 

Not much so than on the first track of the album, my favourite track of theirs My Propeller

Turner's voice is much deeper, more menacing, whispering than on previous records, a very seductive tone indeed; he controls its effects perfectly to fit the hypnotic rhythm section.
As always the lyrics are top notch and with that modulated delivery, the band reaches what sounds to me like a prefect rock song. It always takes me on a throbbing trip and I keep wanting more...

Track number 2 was the first single, Crying Lightning; it took me a while to take it in. Musically it's a bit louder and angrier (the album is part produced by Josh Homme after all) but I finally fell in love with the lyrics: "And my thought got rude as you talked and chewed on the last of your pick' n mix" 

Ok, I admit I adore singing the chorus out loud in my flat and it feels fucking great (maybe not for my neighbours), the way each word musically falls into the other one 'Your past time consisted of the strange and twisted and deranged and I hate that little game you had called Crying Lightning" and delivered in that Yorkshire accent makes it even more perfect.

Now, we arrive at Dangerous Animals, a syncopated little number that follows the same high tempo and quality as the first 2 songs. Here the fuzzy guitar riffs are the heroes, fusing with beating drums and a warm bass line.

That fast & furious rhythm is broken up by the intro of Secret Door a more melancholic tune, still held together by strong pounding by Matt Helders who must be one of the best rock drummers out there

Now that we have our breath back, it's time to dive back into the fast and furious Potion Approaching

Much more punk rock circa 1992 than the rest of the album it's an uppercut to the jaw that turn into a vicious repetition 'yours is the only ocean", threatening to turn into a Led Zeppling homage song.

Half way trough the album Fire and the Thud sees Turner at his most seducing, telling us dirty secrets in the ear enticing the listener in his world in a song that relies more on atmosphere than brute force to make its point.

The 2nd masterpiece of the album is Cornerstone, the sad and beautiful tale of a lovelorn guy seeing his ex girlfriend everywhere he goes. Turner does dreamy as well as he does sexy.

They did a few acoustic versions for radio shows

Again, the lyrics stand out, very clever use of the English language. He's at his most precise with his observations of our every day lives.
"I elongated my lift home, Yeah I left him go the long way home. I smelt your scent on the seatbelt and kept my shortcuts to myself" 

With Dance Little Liars, we're back into the throbbing yet menacing territories that inhabit the album as a whole, with fabulous rolling drums and a great guitar solo at the end.

Penultimate track, Pretty Visitors, starts like a Nick Cave song but quickly speeds up into the rockier and heavier track of the album. Here, Turner spits his lyrics and let them click and clack with a vigour in contrast with backing vocals during the chorus that sound like they're slowed down.

Finally, The Jeweller's Hands closes this great album with a stoner note. The album was partly recorded in the desert and this song reeks of psychedelic drugs and contemplation. The bass vrooms (it should be a verb, really) and warms up everything. When the guitars emerge at the end, together with another repetitive chorus, like a mantra, it makes you just long to start playing the whole album again...

So go on, download or buy this brilliant album if you don’t own it yet and play it loud, it is a seminal album that will be played by your kids and grandkids who will ask you "hey did you like them when you were young?" Would be silly to answer no, right?