Humbug: Ten Years Later

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By Kaitlyn Watson
Music Journalist

Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Album: Humbug
Release Date: Aug. 19, 2009

For the 10th anniversary of the release of Arctic Monkeys’ third studio album, Humbug, I ask that we all celebrate by rewatching “Skins” on Netflix. After the wild success of albums Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare, some Arctic Monkeys diehards still hold this record as one of their least favorites. The love/hate relationship amongst fans was similar to the reception of the long-awaited Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino in 2018. After a decade, it’s time to revisit the highlights of Humbug.

“Crying Lightning” 

“Crying Lightning” is special because it was one of my first Arctic Monkeys songs as a young teenager, and we all know that is the catalyst to becoming someone who eventually works in indie college radio. Like much of the album, this song is heavy on wordplay and the melodramatic rock sound. It very much fit the 2009 image of being an angsty 20-something trying to navigate romance that Alex Turner had curated before the well known era of black leather jackets and high top converse. 

“Fire and the Thud” 

“Fire and the Thud” is the one track that always grants some credibility to the people that call the Arctic Monkeys “desert rock.” Standing out on this album due to its more subdued sound, the drama of it all makes it feel cinematic. It’s easy to imagine this song backing an indie film about young lovers in 20th century America. Painting a specific picture and dream world through sound was the name of the game for Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, and it is very interesting to see how this theme was already present almost a decade before that project. 


With an eclectic storyline and an iconic, awkward music video, “Cornerstone” is a cult favorite. It was released as the second single on Humbug, and I’ve had so many love affairs with this track that Spotify puts it on my “most listened” playlist every year. Turner used all of the good British rock band tropes about pubs, girls and taxi cabs and it worked out like a dream. If I had to rank the very specific category of alternative rock songs where the lead singer claims that they want to date your sister in the lyrics, “Cornerstone” would only come in second place behind “Debra” by Beck. 

“Pretty Visitors” 

Turner likes his metaphors obscure and his guitar riffs aggressive, so “Pretty Visitors” is right on brand. As an American, British metaphors can sometimes begin to sound like a bit from “Austin Powers”, but the energy of the song itself is palpable. With the switching tempos, a darker sound and experimental use of an organ in alternative garage rock, we come out with a song that would be appropriate for a Halloween playlist that manages to blend in perfectly on an Arctic Monkeys studio album.  

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