Facing the third album blues, the Arctic Monkeys turned to Josh Homme, the Queens of the Stone Age mastermind renowned for his collaborations but heretofore untested as a producer. On first glance, it's a peculiar pair--the heirs of Paul Weller meet the heavy desert mystic--but this isn't a team of equals, it's a big brother helping his little siblings go wayward and get weird. Homme doesn't imprint his own views on the Monkeys but encourages them to follow their strange instincts. Wading into the murk of HUMBUG it becomes clear that the common ground between the Monkeys and Homme is the actual act of making music, the pleasure of not knowing what comes next when an entire band is drifting inside a zone.
Since so much of HUMBUG is about its process, it's not always immediately accessible or pleasurable to an outside listener, nor is it quite the thickly colored freakout Homme's presence suggests. The Monkeys still favor angular riffs and clenched rhythms, constructing tightly framed vignettes not widescreen epics, but they're working with a darker palette and creating vaguely abstract compositions, sensibilities that extend to Alex Turner's words too, as he trades keen detail for vivid scrawled impressions. Every element of the album reflects a band testing its limits, seeing where they could go next.
Entertainment Weekly (p.62) - "[They] continue to churn out spiky Britpop anthems, though they take a (relative) turn for the deeper and darker here." -- Grade: B+
Alternative Press - "[With] thoughtful, introspective songs like the opener 'My Propeller' and 'Secret Door,' a tune that displays an almost Cure-like poignancy."
Billboard - "The Monkeys still favor angular riffs and clenched rhythms, constructing tightly framed vignettes not widescreen epics, but they're working with a darker palette and creating vaguely abstract compositions..."
Paste (magazine) (p.51) - "Arctic Monkeys collect their darkest impulses and put them on stark display; it's another massive step forward in a career that seems marked for greatness."
Pitchfork (Website) - "It's their loosest record yet by far....The guitars in particular have a snapping, reverberant desert/surf tone that fuels the band's descent into night."
Clash (magazine) - "Maturity has spread throughout the bnad....Rhythms and melodies collide on every song, with various exotic instrumentation decorating the quartet's foundation sound."
Record Collector (magazine) (p.80) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "Turner can floor with his wordplay....Plus the chops, particularly of drummer Matt Helders, who does well not to buckle under Homme's glare, are, frankly, amazing throughout."
Uncut (magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "On 'The Jeweller's Hand,' Turner channels the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe....'Dance Little Liar' is more gothic still, Arctic Monkeys revealing a previously hidden talent for cinematics."