I Meant To Listen To: Arctic Monkeys, “Humbug”

Day one in the journey of re-listening begins with the letter A and the Arctic Monkeys. I feel there is no better band to start this off with than them. After exploding onto the scene in the mid-2000’s, the Arctic Monkeys have made a name for themselves with their own brand of style and substance.

Their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was an immediate hit in both the general music-consuming public and my peer group. On more than one occasion, a friend of mine would have one of their songs as their profile song on their Myspace page, and on more than one occasion I would chime in with an original comment such as “I bet that YOU look good on the dance floor!” It is also worth noting that I remained very single during these years.

Years pass and one night I am staring in awe at the music video to Do I Wanna Know? – a simple and beautifully crafted song and video. At that point I was thinking to myself, “These guys are back!” But, of course, I would find out that I was incorrect and the band had been chugging along and releasing albums with frequent regularity.

This brings me to the album, Humbug. Released in 2009 and sadly off my radar for too many years, it was co-produced by Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age fame. I am shocked I never gave this album a proper listening – being such a QOTSA fanboy and all. After several listens to Humbug, not only can you hear Homme’s influence, you can actually feel it.

Homme’s signature vibes are ever-present on this album and it’s discoveries such as these that help pave the Arctic Monkeys sound on later releases. Without the explorative swoon of tracks such as “The Jeweller’s Hands”, there may not have been an avenue allowed for the maturation of sultry grooves found on 2013’s AM; in particular, songs like “Knee Socks” or “One For The Road”.

The first two albums from the Arctic Monkeys are full of spirit and gusto. An explosive opening statement to the music world. But Humbug is something different. Where Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and Favourite Worst Nightmare feel reminiscent to being a punchy youth ready to tackle the night and anything in its way, and their latest releases are tales of the older guard who has seen and done it all, Humbug is the first step in the subtle and sobering lesson of self-discovery. You can feel and resonate with the moodier moments of the album, like it’s that first walk home from the pub after having one too many.

And much like that lonely stroll home, you can begin to second-guess yourself and see where it may have all gone wrong. You can come up with a plan to be better, to adjust and re-evaluate that personal top-eight of yours if you will. Humbug is that decision to adjust, to grow, to discover. Not just who you are, but who you aren’t.

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