Here's a game for those with too much time on their hands: listen to this record straight through twice and think what would be the best message you could put on the runout groove of the vinyl. 'I preferred the first two'? 'Did they leave the hooks at home'? Then come back to 'Humbug', give it a few more listens and see if you've decided to change the message.
Having displayed an awesome sense of quality control since their debut, the suspicion that Arctic Monkeys have lost their way a bit in the desert and New York as they try to add more depth to their sound is something that even their greatest admirer might consider. But while 'Humbug' isn't as strong as its predecessors, the darker energy should eventually connect.
Recorded with Queens of the Stone frontman Josh Homme in the Mojave (seven tracks) and 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' producer James Ford in Brooklyn (three), singalongs or jump up and down moments don't figure much - the woozy ambience and dirgey arrangements that Homme has become famous for do. Both are brilliantly combined on 'My Propeller', 'Crying Lightning' and 'Dance Little Liar' and had 'Secret Door' featured more keyboards in the mix and less bass and drums, it would've joined them. Most of the other tracks feel like discoveries-in-progress, and a few weeks could do wonders for your opinion of them.
Disappointment turning to admiration doesn't happen much with music these days, but some listeners will experience it here. And even if what Arctic Monkeys have done in the past figures most for them in the future, there will be times and moods when only 'Humbug' will do.