Review Summary: A letter of love which refuses to open up, Humbug is as distancing as it is endearing.
Now, when reviewing, I'm always conscious of comparisons to an artist's earlier work, as that can often cloud your judgement and lead you to some unwarranted conclusions; It's like relationships: Whether platonic or intimate, I often find myself pondering and chuckling about the little differences between opinions and outlooks when in a new relationship. Of course, sometimes, it is entirely necessary to compare.
When me and Arctic Monkeys first got together, things were great, a breath of fresh air from all the other relationships I'd been in lately. Verbose, intelligent, but prone to fun and mischief, Arctic Monkeys knew what I had wanted instinctively - Arctic Monkeys understood me. And that was priceless. Choppy, staccato rhthyms, simple but inspired lead lines, a lot of Ska and classic Punk influence - she was the complete package. Top that off with with a delightfully-nasal Yorkshire yelp, I was hooked. Insatiable. We were never apart from then on it, it really was a certain romance.
Around a year into the relationship, things got a bit weird. Not bad (At first). Just weird. I saw her less and less. Whenever she sang out to me in the clutches of carnal ecstacy, it was in reverb-laden tones, her once-adored Yorkshire twang not forgotten, but slightly withered. She was becoming more worldly, I used to joke. She would just sigh. Shrug. And then I found out. She had been cheating on me.
Sleeping with The Rascals.
I was heartbroken, I couldn't believe it. But I couldn't quit her. I couldn't stop our liason now, I was in far too deep. And then, again, things changed.
She hit me harder and heavier, shoving me down, taking what she wanted. Her phaser-drenched temolo-picked lead-lines, coupled with those monsterous drums, psychadelic basswork and more structured, worldly lyrics - they grabbed me and shook me, over and over and over again. Even more so than the start of our time together.
Things were looking up.
But one day, I was browing Youtube, only to happen upon Arctic Monkeys...Playing a new song. My breath was stinging upon every inhale, catching in my chest, the browser seemed to take forever to load. And when it did, and the opening, ominously-picked riff of, "Crying Lightning" came forth, I knew that this riff served as a makeshift straining post - and we were struggling against it, changing directions.
Humbug, her letter to me, no longer a whiff of her in either the titles or the artwork, put the fear of screaming Jesus into me. But I had to listen.
Firstly, she was a better musician. The simple riffs of years gone by and been replaced by slower, more thoughtful riffs. That frenetic, animalistic pounding of the drums had been likewise replaced with a more agile beast (zing!), all 60's grooves and 90's alternative bashing. The bass had only stumbled further into the realms of the psychadelic, providing a backbeat which was entirely independant from the instruments surrounding it. The vocals had been turned, from youthful, wide-eyed yelping to laconic croon, no longer an interested observer of the night-life and morning afters, now the surveyor of personal trips through metaphysics and indecipherable metaphors concerning sweeties. Her tunes are drenched in reverb and atmospheric keyboards, a new layer to enjoy upon what I thought was already a full canvas.
Which brings me to my only real negative concerning our relationship these days - although it is fairly big - and that is her wordsmithery. It used to be that she would tell me of dancefloors, of bad things, of being unsurprised when bent over, and now her tales were comprehendable only to herself, and of that I'm not even sure of. It's like, in the back of my head, I think she feels smarter and more interesting than she actually is, ("I was biting the timezone and we embellished the banks of our bloodstreams
and threw caution to the colourful"). However, when she gets it right, it's actually sweet in a sort of backwards way, and all the more endearing ("Then the secret door swings behind us
She's saying nothing
Cause she's just giggling along
Even if they were to find us
I wouldn't notice
I'm completely occupied
As all the
Fools on parade")
I'm not sure where we're going, Arctic Monkeys and I. We've been through a lot together, been there, always understood one another without needing to get into any heavy discussions. Every relationship has down time, and the opposite is true, as well. However, every relationship also must end, and I just know ours will peter out slowly rather than be cut off quickly, with less pain invovled.
And, of course, history can always repeat itself.