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Arctic Monkeys: Humbug
When the Arctic Monkeys first burst on the scene in 2006 all mop-top, gritty Northern and clever, they were Britain’s latest Beatle-vein sensation; and teeny boppers couldn’t get enough of them. Soaring into the stratosphere, they had the fastest selling debut album in British history with Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, and they still hold that title today.
Surprisingly, they released their second album Favourite Worst Nightmare a short three months later, and were accused of being opportunists for, well, seizing the opportunity to sell more albums at the height of the Monkey craze. The Monkeys simply pleaded boredom as the cause, and not wanting to play the same songs ad nauseam on a lengthy tour.
Whatever their reason, this firecracker start engrained them solidly in the collective British conscience. Apart from front-man Alex Turner’s side project with The Rascals’ Miles Kane, called The Last Puppetshow; the Monkeys have been relatively silent since.
Humbug is their much anticipated third album... and it is humbug indeed. To say that it’s a departure from the Monkey’s trademark and infectiously sardonic wit is very cliché and putting it very lightly.
Perhaps it’s because they listened to nothing but Jimi Hendrix and Cream throughout the recording process, or perhaps the American production team and location influenced their sound; because the album is cyclic and monotonous.
Fans who loved the Monkeys for their witty lyrics and distinct tone will have a hard time digesting their latest offering. They sometimes sound psychedelic like The Doors, sometimes aggressive like Billy Talent, and sometimes experimental like The Gorrilaz. In short, the album’s just kind of blah, ho-hum…humbug?
Okay, so the Monkeys have grown up, Turner’s voice has cracked, and they are now much more experienced and can fine-tune their musicianship and crafty vocals. The question is: what was wrong with their kickass rock/pop sound? They may be better musicians, but they’ve left their audience in the wake; and they seem to be okay with that.
Nothing shines or stands out on this album, except maybe the winding ‘Cornerstone’, which is reminiscent of their old sound, or ‘Fire and Thud’. ‘Crying Lightening’, their first single, exemplifies the new cyclic style that the Monkeys have taken on, and the only highlight is the whack video featuring the band on a makeshift pirate ship just playing the song.
Fans of the old Monkeys may be disappointed, but they’re currently recording their next album; which is rumoured to be released later this year. Fingers crossed they go back to basics and re-light the fire.
Michael Jackson was cruelly taken from this world in 2009, his musical-afterlife
is proving to be very fruitful. In addition to bringing in good money for producers and collaborators, it’s a staunch reminder of the
king of pop’s much loved spirit. That was achieved in Michael, the
first album release after his passing away, but not many would say the same
about new album Immortal.
For one thing, Immortal was originally created as a soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil tour of the same name, and while Michael featured new songs, this one is made up mainly of remixes of some of his most popular songs which, without the accompanying Cirque du Soleil acts, may sound like a meaningless spoil of some of the greatest pop classics of all time.
Among the songs on the giant twenty-track album, some of the titles grab the attention right away and raise intrigue; how would a ‘Thriller’ remix turn out, for example? And who dares mess with ‘Smooth Criminal’? The latter had a couple of dramatic pauses and smashing sound effects between verses without breaking the original mood of the song.
The same can’t be said of the ‘Speechless/Human Nature’ remix. While it’s hard to notice where the two songs blend, the only change is the absence of ‘Human Nature’s beat and replacing it with a strange clicking sound. Instrumentally speaking, ‘Man in The Mirror’ is the best remix on the record; the basic elements of the song stay the same, while a little shuffling of the chorus arrangements has actually given it a fresh sound that still keep it recognisable.
Immortal is rather confusing at first listen; if it aims to preserve Jackson's legacy, how come none of the new arrangements sound remotely like anything he would have done? Maybe it is a different experience when accompanied by the the Cirque du Soleil performance, but as an album, it lacks a running theme and it is too commercialized for its own good.
With an epic debut back in 2011, Cairokee have successfully snuck into the pulse of the Egyptian underground music scene, thanks to their politically-charged singles and relatable lyrics. Following making their way into the playlists of countless Egyptians, the rock band remains the poster child of popularized underground acts.
Releasing their 4th studio album, Nas W Nas, with a total of 12 tracks, the band finds itself sticking to a golden mean of sorts, not stressing too heavily on politics, and incorporating an array of themes that draws from everyday situations, making for an album that anyone from the working class masses to the bourgeoisie will find themselves relating to.
Said choice of multiple themes, is reminiscent of the their 3rd album, “El Sekka Shemal”, focusing more on social issues, criticising some and romanticising others. Genre-wise, the band takes what seems like a partial break from heavy rock beats and delves deeply into laid back indie and pop-rock.
“Ghamad Einak” showcases Amir Eid’s ability to skilfully hit high notes against a baroque pop-inspired backdrop with a hint of rap, whereas “Marboot Be Astek” boasts a more futuristic 80s disco-pop sound, as Amir croons about a pretentious crowd at a party.
Drawing from traditional folkloric Egyptian music, “El Baka Baka” features a lively criticism of all types of pollution and nuisances that highlight life in Egypt sung along the infectious beat of the tabla. “El Television” extends the theme of societal criticisms, unapologetically throwing apparent shade at Egyptian mainstream media and pop culture, with the lead guitarist Hawary, bass guitarist Adam El-Alfy and drummer Tamer Hashem boldly flaunting their instruments in the dynamic single.
Toning things down, Amir gently sings about his optimistic hopes and appreciation of the little things that make everyday life in Egypt all the more special, alongside relaxed beats and laid back guitar strums in “Wala Ma Aayez.” Cairokee’s non-cheesy approach to romance makes the indie-inspired “Neaddy El Sharea Sawa” endearingly touching as it describes a couple’s first date.
With both the original track and the remix included in the track list, “Geina El Donia Fi Laffa”’s remix is a power tune which both mixes oriental vibes with a house beat that build up to a memorable drop. “Nas W Nas” sees Cairokee stealthily creep back to their political roots, as Eid’s emotional vocals chant about Egyptian martyrs.
All in all, Cairokee seem to have mastered the art of delivering songs that are highly relatable whilst still refreshing their signature style here and there. Nas W Nas has its moments of sheer euphoria and moments of ever so slight monotony, yet as a whole, sees the band mature into a genre purely of their own.