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Arctic Monkeys - 'Crying Lightning'

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Fraser McAlpine | 17:58 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Arctic Monkeys

In all the noise and mess surrounding the return of the Arctic Monkeys - a perfectly poised Culture Show appearance here, a brilliant 7" release through Oxfam there, endless tales of them recording their new album 'Humbug' under a strange dome in the desert with Josh Homme from Queens Of The Stone Age EVERYWHERE, it's easy to forget that they started out as just a bunch of mates with guitars, who decided to get together and make music as a way of passing the time, and happened to end up being really good at it.

It's going to get progressively harder too, as they're no longer that same gang. Changes have occurred, strange forces have been at work, there's talk of alchemy, of glowing charms, of shady pacts and supernatural incantations. Beards have been grown, and then lost overnight, as if by (whisper it) magic.

So, against this Harry Potteresque backdrop, you'd be wise to cling to this one central question: What is the new Arctic Monkeys single really like?

Well, it's like a bitter, unwell, woozy cousin of that 'Fake Tales Of San Francisco' sardonic guitar/funk thing, but with 'Brianstorm's explosive dynamics, and Alex Turner sounding worn to a frazzle, but flinty-eyed and angry.

(Here's the video. Best use of a pipe in a popular music promo EVAH.)

It's like the condensed boredom of a shady afternoon, drinking lumpy tea and waiting for someone you don't know in a grotty cafe, in an Edwardian nightmare fairground, out of season, in the rain, forever.

It's like being poked in the chest repeatedly by a late-teens Artful Dodger from Sheffield with mirrors for eyes and a black hole where his soul should be. He sees everything, his eyes as sharp as his sticky fingers, and nothing can ever come to any good in his dark, dark world.

It's like settling down in a rollercoaster car and noticing, just as the bar comes down to lock over your chest, that you're sitting in a pile of chipped paint and rotten wood, it's wet with some dark liquid that looks suspiciously like blood. No-one hears you complain as the car moves away.

It's like being in the military parade in Moscow's Red Square - as directed by Tim Burton - and there's a giant wasp in dusty military uniform buzzing over the brass band. The army are trying to shoot it, they even bring in a tank, but it misfires, blowing one of the onion domes off the church of St Olafs.

Most of all, it is like a band who were always older than their years, and greater than the sum of their parts, becoming more mature and getting better into the bargain. And just because they're not looking at the goings-on of their hometown with a vinegary eye any more, it doesn't make their songs any less gritty or real.

Now hold tight, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Five starsDownload: Out now
7" Released: August 17th
BBC Music

(Fraser McAlpine)


  • Comment number 1.

    fraser i love you. those of you who are not impressed by the track give it a few listens. it grows. it grows well.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well I will comment on the song later..

    I just wanna do a quick prediction..

    Humbug will enter the album charts at number 1 !

    Gotta go....

  • Comment number 3.

    I have been spelling it " Crying Lightning " for the last 2 months ... have they suddenly added an "e" on release ?

  • Comment number 4.

    Is that a misprint? It's spelt 'Lightning' on the iTunes release.
    Anyway, it took me a while to get into the song, but I really like it now.
    It's a nice move forward for them, they're proving to be an important band of this decade.
    I love the ending. It's not very often a song has a great ending y'know, so top marks from me.

  • Comment number 5.

    Bah...lightning is clearly a word that I believe I can spell without checking, when actually I cannot. Oh well...

  • Comment number 6.

    And before you ask, no I can't correct it in the 'topical posts' bit below.

  • Comment number 7.

    But lo! It is corrected! (Magic?)

  • Comment number 8.

    I am not a huge arctic monkeys fan but i love this track. You can truly hear Josh Homme's influence but they also stay true to their roots which is great. It's also nice to see them helping out charity at a time when charities are struggling during the recession.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm not a pedantic person when it comes to spelling; I have to try hard myself. People actually get on to you about spelling that much?

  • Comment number 10.

    Fantastic sleazy stuff. And is it really directed by Richard Ayoade? Man of many talents if so!

  • Comment number 11.

    He did their live DVD too. I know!

    Mozzle, I say this in the full knowledge that all the other regular ChartBlog commenteers will read it, but there is very little that happens on this blog that someone (*cough*hiding behind a pseudonym*cough*) won't find fault with. Gotta roll with the punches and keep your powder dry, that's the ticket!

    Great to have your comments, by the way. Glad you stuck around!

  • Comment number 12.

    Hiding behind a pseudonym?? Who could you possibly mean.. oh yeah.

    To be fair, I didn't use a pseudonym when I first logged onto this blog. I only changed to Thranjax because. Well I can't remember why. Guess I was worried someone else would grab that name .....

  • Comment number 13.

    I wasnt convinced at first but I think its a great record. I am a massive Artics fan and I have been looking forward to the release of this for ages.

    The heavier influence will be interesting to listen to as a whole on the album. I guess its showing through on this record. Or are we just looking forward to it?

    Whats interesting to me is that Id rate "Brianstorm" and "Bet you look good on the dance floor" as weak tracks from the band. Relatively of course, as they are both great songs. However weaker than a lot of the stuff on the albums they were the lead singles from. This gives me much hope for the rest of Humbug!

    And because nobody has started thr dedate yet ... Alex Turner. Haircut needed or not? I vote yes.

  • Comment number 14.

    Well I wanted to be Thranjax , but would you believe it , someone had already taken the name !

    I cried for days , luckily the drummer from 80's band Europe consoled me , and I am now a lot happier ... lol lol

  • Comment number 15.

    It's The Final Calmdown.

  • Comment number 16.

    So were you "Little Black Dog" first?

    I think Alex looks better with the longer hair, myself.

  • Comment number 17.

    When your job is based on having an opinion, I guess you have to be prepared for backlash of all kinds, and thanks, I will stick around :)

    Anyway, the shallow person in me wants the band to stop looking like early Kings of Leon. It's all a bit cringey. Jamie Cook is just not the same person anymore, but I have to say it's better than Brandon Flowers' attempt...
    Then again who cares, the music is still top banana.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think at the moment , my two favourite songs on the new album would be Propeller and Cornerstone .

    2 great tracks .

  • Comment number 19.

    I like Pretty Visitors, Secret Door and Fire and the Thud. My Propeller's a great opener, it really sets the tone of the album. However, Whatever I Say I Am... has kind of bitten them on the bum really. It's hard to live up to a debut that good, same way the Stone Roses first album did. Definite No. 1 album. Talking about the Stone Roses, has anyone been listening to that album? It still sounds amazing.

  • Comment number 20.

    In terms of songwriting , delivery , melody and an ability to connect with an audience the Stone Roses album is a CLASSIC !

    How many five star songs on one album ?

    It sounds like a greatest hits !

    Awesome songs.

  • Comment number 21.

    On hearing the new Arctic Monkeys album , and liking many tracks , it is interesting that they have gone sideways on the commercial route , and gone for a harder , raw sound .

    Humbug will not sell as many copies as the first two albums but there are still treasures to be found , and extra marks for trying something different .

  • Comment number 22.

    Ive only listened to their set on Radio1 recently. It sounded like theres gonna be some classic records off it. I sort of agree that living up to a debut such as 'Whatever..' is hard. However I actually think they did with 'Favourite Worst Nightmare'. Its a fantastic album of course.

    So can they make it three in a row? The new album sounds like it might be an evolution of sound, with some heavier elements. However there was a track of two that I thought might actually be almost in the opposite direction.

    Cannot wait either way!


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