* * 1/2
* * 1/2
The Arctic Monkeys didn't bother to knock in 2005 when they came busting through the door into instant pop fame in England. Creating a huge following through Internet file-swapping and live gigs, the teenage quartet became the fastest-selling band in United Kingdom history when it finally debuted with the album "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" in 2006 and its inescapable single, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor." The 2007 release "Favourite Worst Nightmare" recycled the sound of the debut, with hurtling tempos and Alex Turner's clever songs about night-life misadventure.
"Humbug" marks a third-album reassessment, in keeping with recent efforts by Franz Ferdinand and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to deepen a sound that produced a big initial splash and then lost allure on the follow-up. The Monkeys hired Queens of the Stone Age singer-guitarist Josh Homme as producer, and recorded most of "Humbug" in his studio in the Southern California desert (additional recording was done with James Ford, who worked on the previous album).
Homme specializes in wedding primal thump with spectral atmosphere, and he throws some curves into the Monkeys' straight-ahead sound: a squeaky-door-frame guitar in "Potion Approaching," a gothic organ in "Pretty Visitors." Turner's vocals sound more relaxed too. He adopts a Morrissey-like croon on "My Propeller" and in general dialing down the breathless exuberance that was the signature of the first two Monkeys albums.
Turner's gift for the telling detail remains acute, especially in "Cornerstone," where his ex appears like a mirage in every pub he trolls. But there's a problem when the tangents are more plentiful and intriguing than the melodies. On "Humbug," texture and atmosphere trump tempo and tunes -- and not always for the best.
-- Greg Kot,
His club could well be expanding
* * *
He's logged plenty of time on European pop charts, but French electro-house maven David Guetta hasn't really established an American fan base beyond the confines of the club. That could soon change: Two advance singles from "One Love," Guetta's fourth studio album, already have broken onto Billboard's Hot 100, while "I Gotta Feeling," the Black Eyed Peas track he produced, just scored its eighth consecutive week atop that tally.
"One Love" certainly comes stocked with a roster ripe for a mainstream crossover: Akon, Ne-Yo, Kid Cudi and Kelly Rowland all turn in guest appearances, as do will.i.am and apl.de.ap of the Peas; they return Guetta's favor in "On the Dancefloor," a pulsating disco-rap jam replete with space-station keyboard squiggles. Estelle crops up too, in a dramatic title track that recalls the early-'90s work of Deee-Lite.
Guetta is at his best (and his most commercial) when he's equipped with a melody as chewy as his beats. "When Loves Takes Over," with Rowland, works beautifully as a cheesy synth-pop makeover of Coldplay's "Clocks." Unfortunately, he whiffs on the opportunity for a tuneful techno-soul bomb in "Choose," his strangely flat Ne-Yo collaboration.
For the most part, though, Guetta knows what he's doing here. Bring America to the club? Nah. He'll bring the club to America.
-- Mikael Wood
Moving toward respectability
Pop and rap singles are regularly praised as gleeful, idiotic summer fun, but rock has a harder time getting taken seriously for being as dumb as a post. Maybe it's still a post-Beatles expectation of guitar music as art, or a lingering hangover from Limp Bizkit's chart reign. In either case, Australian quartet Jet has long been a pincushion for serious rock fans for whom the band's knuckle-dragging take on the MC5's stoned garage-rock is beneath contempt.
Maybe Jet took those jabs to heart. On its latest album "Shaka Rock," the band tries on a bit more space and texture, which makes for both a more rewarding listen and less of a conversation piece. "Beat on Repeat" belatedly enters the disco revival with an adept Blondie-ish floor-filler, and the group tries on the Skoal-ringed jeans of Molly Hatchet on "Black Hearts (on Fire)."
By and large, "Shaka Rock" is an unmistakable and confident move toward respectability for Jet. But it does make you wonder why it's so rough for a band to be young, dumb and full of bad come-ons.
-- August Brown
Artist tries on all kinds of styles
Flavor Unit Records
On her seventh studio album, "Persona," Jersey-born rapper-singer-actress and Cover Girl and Jenny Craig spokeswoman Queen Latifah, with the help of producers Cool & Dre, updates her sound to include everything du jour: autotune-tinged techno banger with Missy Elliott, bottle-service electronica, mellow reggae with Jamaican singer Serani and club-soul for the working girls. While the production is attentive and her effort to remain timely is appreciated and attuned, "Persona" still feels like a missed opportunity.
It's understandable why Latifah would want to return to hip-hop, the breeding ground of her personal style, but it's jazz that's guided Dana Owens' best efforts. Even her biggest hip-hop single, "U.N.I.T.Y.," borrowed the foundation of its cool progressivism from a Jazz Crusaders loop.
More recently, her 2004 set of standards "The Dana Owens Album," and its Grammy-nominated follow-up, "Trav'lin' Light," earned Latifah her biggest raves. Critics fell for her silk scarf of a voice as it fluttered through smoky jazz numbers, while reworking the songs enough to uncover new pressure points.
"Persona" is stylistically everywhere and yet it skips over some fruitful ground. Queen Latifah is too busy chasing 100 styles of hip-pop, seemingly to prove that she can indeed do it all. She should've let that hit parade carry on by.
-- Margaret Wappler