Since recording their last album and during the course of over two years, the boys had become accustomed to the routines of their everyday lives. With writing and recording paused, Nick, Matt, Jamie and Alex were each able to indulge in their own bespoke approach to enjoying life in their early twenties.
Matt,ever the sophisticate, had settled back into life in Sheffield neatly. Initially, and very happily, he spent his days devising new extreme sports,testing their quality by building prototypes for numerous water craft, boards of all kinds, huge foam weapons and even two pocket-sized jets in his 'house of the future'. Life was sweet. He slept like a glove. After striking up a romance with Sean Combs and subsequently agreeing to co-found a new and wildly experimental cross-Atlantic hip hop label, Good Boy Entertainment, Matt prospered further still, and was positively frothing with joie de vivre.
Jamie, who had developed a taste for all things exotic and adventurous, managed to effortlessly combine his new found interests in perilous travels to unexplored and far off lands. He felt fulfilled, notably by his discovery of not only a previously unknown and violently potent spice within the bark of a tree in a rainforest in sub-Saharan Africa, but also by his unverified sightings of two new species of giant anteater in deepest Bolivia. After emerging from a wood near his Sheffield home (where he had lived self-sufficiently and undisturbed for nearly seven months), Jamie declared himself ready to renew his relationship with his guitar and his bandmates in the middle of last year. Nick’s exploits during the boys’ sabbatical might well be described as the most curious. After spending the best part of 2007 embroiled in an exhausting (though ultimately fruitful) legal battle over his coining of the portmanteau word ‘chillax’, he sought to rid himself of the obsession that had plagued his time with the band. Whilst the others were content to rely on all manner of fastenings and clasps, Nick had developed such an unhealthy addiction to zips that he could not leave the house without six or seven about his person. Having weaned himself off with a cocktail of press studs, buttons and hooks, Nick was clean,and latterly vowed to ‘go velcro’. Alex,having completed work on an ambitious audiovisual project in the form of his musical version of Enid Blyton’s well-loved series ‘Binkle and Flip’, attempted to satiate himself with an interesting and novel pursuit. Having originally sought, discovered and purchased what is believed to be eleven derelict London Tube stations, Alex found himself in the privileged position of owning nearly a third of London’s underground landscape. Comprising a vast and mysterious network of tunnels, bunkers and, allegedly, an opulent and breathtakingly large hall directly beneath Berkeley Square, Alex’s secret underworld rapidly became the envy of the social elite.
And so it was, with the boys refreshed, poised and with vim, vigour and new ideas abounding, that they themselves reassembled, assembling a body of work which has now taken the form of their third album.
Recorded on both sides of the United States, initially with inspiration turned accomplice Sir Joshua Homme in Joshua Tree, and latterly with serial collaborator and friend Lord James Ford in Brooklyn, the new material is the fresher for being steeped in the boys’ various (and almost unbelievable)experiences and achievements of the last two years. They hope you enjoy it. - As recording began in Joshua Tree, the boys stayed at the interestingly named Joshua Tree Motel. Nick thought it rude not to appropriate liquor left outside his door by fans of the late Gram Parsons, who died at the hotel, and Matt grew particularly fond of the Ouija board on display outside his.
- The new experience of recording with Josh Homme proved enjoyable as well as fruitful. So refreshed by and respectful of his approach to recording and influencing their material, the boys could not be swayed even by his gesture of purchasing a pair of rubber clogs, the worst shoes in the world, for each of them.
-While in the desert, the band took advantage of the proximity of the Integratron, an acoustically perfect sound chamber built by ufologist George Van Tassell, supposedly under strict instructions provided by visitors from the planet Venus. Whilst the band tested the sonics of the chamber by recording a stripped-down version of new song ‘Secret Door’, their manager was so calmed by the cosmic energy that the Integration emitted that he slept there undisturbed for days.
- Using Homme’s engineer for an element of continuity, the boys slipped back into working with James Ford easily, referencing what had been achieved in Joshua Tree whilst working on new material.
- In stark contrast to the pellet gun shooting and pull-up competitions which dominated the extra-curricular in California, the band spent their spare time while recording on the other side of the United States with Ford tending to the night life of New York, and obsessing over marble madness at the The Barcade.
-Considered less of a snapshot of a period than the previous albums, created in quick succession, the new record represents a new approach to song choices and album composition for the boys.
-After ceasing touring ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’, the band discussed the idea of making a heavier third album. Despite intensifying the live experience with an abundance of darker, louder tracks, the boys thought it wise to make a more musically balanced album as recording progressed.
-Despite recording more than twice as many songs as appear on the album in the sessions with Homme and Ford, the boys felt the ten chosen shared a certain intangible temper which distinguished them from the rest.
- Once again, Alex relieves himself of guitar playing duties on this album on penultimate track ‘Pretty Visitors’, instead focusing solely on dexterous lyrical mischief.
- Not content with twiddling knobs and telling Helders that he plays ‘like a f**kingoctopus’, Homme ‘muscled his way’ onto some of the recordings themselves,lending his voice to backing vocals on several tracks.
-After much deliberation, ‘Humbug’ was finally settled upon as the album’s title. Whilst pick and mix sweets, strawberry laces and gobstoppers are playfully referred to in the opening verse of second track ‘Crying Lightning’, the connotations of Ebenezer Scrooge’s exclamation of choice reflect a sinister and haunting tone which cannot be escaped on several songs in this third work.
- The band have currently shelved plans to record a series of other albums based on distinctive Dickensian utterances. However, it is more than likely that once‘all that bloody touring’ has ceased, they will begin work on a concept album based on the numerous expletives mentioned in the short-lived serial ‘The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit’.
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