Alex Turner makes bid for Britpop greatness on his band’s best album yet.
John Lennon. Pete Townshend. Ray Davies. Paul Weller. Noel Gallagher. The League of English Gentlemen in question is, by definition, a small and exclusive fraternity, but perhaps it’s time to add a more contemporary name to its ranks: Alex Turner, the cad/lad from Sheffield whose Arctic Monkeys are defining modern English pop.
Sure, early Arctic Monkeys buzz grew from the Internet up—the group’s
fan-curated MySpace site created huge public interest in their debut,
2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which remains the
fastest-selling debut album in U.K. history—but Turner’s 2008 side
project with The Rascals’ Miles Kane, The Last Shadow Puppets,
demonstrated that he was more a pop classicist than an online
narcissist. Humbug picks up where that project left off, drawing from
an array of sources to tell granularly detailed stories of chav culture
and the ambivalence of modern romance—as on “Dangerous Animals”: “You
should have racing stripes, the way you keep me in pursuit”—like a
young, sarcastic Davies. Urged on by producer Josh Homme (Queens of the
Stone Age), 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.