Arctic Monkeys - Humbug (4 stars)

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Arctic Monkeys - Humbug

(Domino)

Hanging out with Josh Homme in the Mojave Desert is bound to have strange effects on a band, but by golly it’s done the Arctic Monkeys good. When the four scamps first bounded into our lives with their gritty northern charm and infectious guitar anthems we were pretty impressed, but we never dreamed they would be capable of a record as devastatingly deranged as this.

For the making of Humbug word has it that Turner and co. knocked on Homme’s door in search of ‘weird’, and just a few seconds in to opening track ‘My Propeller’ it’s clear they found it.

The frontman croons lustily over demonic riffs while ghostly harmonies unfurl and an unsettling atmosphere is duly set for ten tracks of dark sultry oddities. There are familiar moments, the occasional trademark fiery attack appears in parts of ‘Potion Approaching’ and ‘Pretty Visitors’ in particular, but for the most part the band have forged a brand new path that combines downbeat, dusty soundscapes with experimental instrumentation and their much celebrated tricksy wordplay.

During the recording process for this third offering, Arctic Monkeys were allegedly given rubber clogs by their ex-QOTSA co-producer and taken to the nearby Integratron (an acoustically perfect sound chamber built by a ufologist). And while all of that makes for interesting fan folklore, Homme has gifted the band so much more than just the odd piece of iffy shoe wear and quirky daytrip. Yes James Ford also had a hand in Humbug’s sound, but it’s Homme’s sonic shadow that really looms large over this latest incarnation of the Arctic Monkeys – and as a result they have never sounded so creepily compelling. What a revamp.

Arctic Monkeys

The stomping Sheffield tykes have graduated from songs about chip shops and taxi ranks, but the ferocious singalong favourites of old should also make an appearance.

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