Articles tagged with Arctic Monkeys

Kung-fu fighting on your roller skates

Who let the Dude in the car?
A couple of years ago, I conducted an excruciatingly awkward interview with Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders for an article in BeatRoute. Boring quotes aside, I’ve been listening to this band for years and was a big fan of 2004′s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

The group’s new disc is called Suck It and See (seriously?) and it’s out on June 7 via Domino. Go to Exclaim! to read my article about it.

Below is “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” which is part James Bond theme song, part swampy garage rock stomper. This one is all about the wordless falsetto payoff.


 
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Unexpected charisma from Alex Turner

Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys‘ third album, the Josh Homme-produced Humbug, is a solid-but-unspectacular collection of desert rock that scales back the group’s usual garage-y post-punk snottiness in favour of cryptic lyrics and atmospheric production. The collection’s clear standout is “Cornerstone,” a mid-tempo ballad about being haunted by a breakup. The lyrics are classic Alex Turner, with vivid detail and scathing wit; the tune itself, however, sounds closer to the Kinks, with breezy acoustic strumming and jangling electric leads.

The song recently got the video treatment it deserves. It’s a simple but weirdly compelling clip, featuring Turner singing into a tape recorder in front of a plain white background. He hams it up admirably, serenading the camera and performing campy hand gestures that go along with the lyrics. Given that he spends most live shows staring blankly out over the audience, this video is a surprising display of charisma from the Monkeys’ frontman.



Humbug is out now via Domino.
 
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Arctic Monkeys @ the Malkin Bowl, 9/20/09

Arctic Monkeys
No matter what they do, Arctic Monkeys are probably doomed to be remembered for their first album and nothing else. Not to suggest that Humbug, the group’s latest, is bad—it isn’t. But it and its predecessor, 2007′s Favourite Worst Nightmare, lack the punkish fury and biting lyrical wit that made Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not the fastest-selling debut in British history (at the time—that record has since been beaten by Leona Lewis‘s Spirit).

During their Sunday evening show at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl, Arctic Monkeys seemed eager to escape being pigeonholed as one-album wonders. They only played three tracks off their debut—”Still Take You Home,” “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “The View from the Afternoon”—which was a shame, since they were the best three songs of the night, both in terms of performance and audience response. The band cut loose during these songs, firing off riffs and thundering fills that whipped up the crowd into a moshing, crowd-surfing frenzy.

The majority of the set was made up of material from the past two albums, plus the occasional B-side and cover (they played a version of “Red Right Hand” that sounded a lot closer to typical Monkeys than it did the Nick Cave original). The band had a fifth member in tow, who provided keyboards and guitar. This allowed the band to recreate Humbug‘s lush arrangements, and also offered frontman Alex Turner the opportunity to set aside his guitar for a few songs. Unfortunately, he looked uncomfortable without an instrument strapped to his chest, and wandered around awkwardly during a take on “Pretty Visitors.”

The newer songs seemed a little lifeless compared to the early cuts, and despite the impressive instrumentation—guitarist Jamie Cook used different effects pedals on seemingly every tune—they mostly just highlighted how much better Arctic Monkeys are when they keep it simple. The set ended with the slow-building, organ-drenched “505.” It was a strong finale, but I couldn’t help but wish they would have played “When the Sun Goes Down” or “A Certain Romance” instead.
 
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Arctic Monkeys get cryptic

Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
Not to undersell Arctic Monkeys‘ melodic talents, or their ability to hammer out catchy post-punk riffage, but the group’s greatest asset has always been frontman Alex Turner’s quirky, vibrant lyrics. On the band’s two previous full-lengths, 2006′s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and 2007′s Favourite Worst Nightmare, his lyrics were rich in detail and rife with slang, brilliantly portraying the minutia of British daily life in a thick Yorkshire accent.

It’s a little disappointing that for Humbug, the band’s third album, Turner opted to shift his lyrics into more cryptic terrain. The descriptions of knackered Converse and fascist club bouncers are gone, replaced by oblique metaphors like “And you’re sinking like a stone / But you know what it’s like to hold the jeweller’s hands / That procession of pioneers all drown” (from “The Jeweller’s Hands”). Turner still has a way with words, but lyrics such as this lack the personality and instant gratification of his previous work.

Arctic Monkeys’ sound has changed too. The album was recorded with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) at a studio in Joshua Tree, California, so it’s fitting that this is the band’s desert rock record. The album opens with “My Propellor,” which shifts between grungy powerchords and haunting, Wild West-inspired riffs. The vocal harmonies on tracks like “Dangerous Animals” and “Secret Door” are swathed in reverb, evoking the lonely, desolate plains of the Mojave Desert. It may lack the charming Britishness of the Arctic Monkeys’ past work, but Humbug is by far their most sonically diverse offering yet, with layers and effects aplenty.

While much of the album finds the band delving into moody hard rock and twangy spaghetti western atmospherics, the collection’s clear standout is its most straightforward offering. “Cornerstone” is a mid-tempo acoustic strummer that could almost pass for the Kinks, its detailed imagery making it the closest the album comes to recreating Turner’s previous poetic triumphs. “I thought I saw you in The Rusty Hook / Huddled up in a wicker chair” he sings, recounting a previous relationship in heart-wrenching detail.

Although it is not as iconic as the band’s previous work, the album proves that Arctic Monkeys have the depth and range to outlast the onslaught of hype that greeted their arrival onto the music scene. As a stylistic experiment that’s clearly intended to test the band’s limitations, Humbug is a consistently enjoyable record that proves that the four lads from Sheffield will long outlast the 15 minutes allotted to many of their Britpop peers.
 
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