Album Recommendation: Humbug

In the late 2000s I found myself throwing on the odd punk or industrial song on YouTube with the purpose of seeing what the recommended videos would be. For me, this was a good way to discover new bands I had not yet heard and would potentially like. Though I can’t remember the exact song that I was originally listening to, I can recall that one such recommended video was a fan made video for a song called “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” by Arctic Monkeys.

They were new to me at the time, and while they didn’t sound exactly like the punk bands I was used to, I really like their fast pace and overall sound. I quickly added their two albums, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare to my collection and found myself listening to them more often than my other favourites of that time. In 2009, their much anticipated third album hit the shelves. Like many other fans, I was ecstatic after a long wait and picked it up immediately. It sounded almost nothing like their first two albums and many fans were left disappointed and I was no different. So I’m recommending it because why not right? Over time though Humbug by Arctic Monkeys ended up being one of my favourite albums of all time.

Their first two albums were punk, or pop punk, fast paced, energetic and even angry. They took Humbug into a very radical direction. It was slowed down, it was dark, and it was very gloomy as the album title suggests. Unlike many punk bands, I loved that their lyrics were a bit more artistic and contained deeper or abstract meanings. They’re plays on words were also above the rest my typical genres. This fact remained in their third album and worked very well with the general mood of the whole record. One that I can often recall was a line from “Dangerous Animals”: when the acrobat fell off the beam, she broke everyone’s heart.

Songs like “Crying Lightning” and “Dangerous Animals” still carried on with an angrier tone and faster pace of their previous tracks, but the tone was still darker, so for me I was still intrigued once I grew accustomed to the new sound. Some songs such as “Cornerstone” had a more uplifting tone despite the lyrics being sad (or creepy depending on your interpretation).

While critics and fans have mixed feelings about Humbug, I find it my personal favourite from the group nowadays. They took a risk in trying something very different that would jeopardize their reputation but pushed through to create an amazing album. While they did move their sound back closer to their roots after the album, the style influenced their subsequent albums and (to me at least) it seems that they settled for a new sound somewhere between their original punk sound and Humbug. I highly recommend giving it a listen, especially if you like songs like The Doors’ “House of the Rising Sun”. Just had an afterthought that some songs on Humbug remind me of that one.