On their first two records, the Arctic Monkeys' jagged dance-punk clatter suggested Franz Ferdinand with some Brit-pop collar showing, beneath a torrent of clever observational lyrics circuiting our mundane pretensions with the casual wit of Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Though they're decidedly less popular here (where their first two discs have barely cracked a half-million sales combined), across the pond, Arctic Monkeys are superstars. Their 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, outpaced first-week sales of Oasis' record-setting debut -- an even more telling accomplishment in the Internet age.
Frontman Alex Turner's outsider tales channel some of the Clash's anthemic spirit -- particularly on the jangling first-album minor hit, "Mardy Bum" -- with a shot of grubby pub-crawling indolence. Turner's mastered the snide aside, noting that "there's only music so that there are new ringtones," and disparaging the entertainment biz's self-indulgence with the dismissive missive, "Assuming that all things are equal, who'd want to be men of the people when there's people like you?"
The Monkeys change tone on their third album, Humbug, exploring a murkier, bottom-heavy sound consistent with producer Josh Homme's personal musical pursuits (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures). The tempos slow, though the guitar still slashes, which in combination with the more claustrophobic throb suggests the Pixies pulling Black Sabbath's rhythm section. It's a moodier affair that sounds molded to capture our harder-rocking Yankee hearts. The album's name is inspired by the toffee-centered hard candy, Turner told the Wall Street Journal: "We were comparing our third record to this candy as opposed to the first two records perhaps being a bit softer -- like Jelly Babies or Starburst."
Arctic Monkeys with Screaming Females, Huck Finn and Flash the DJ. 8 p.m. Mon., Dec. 7. Mr. Small's Theatre., 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. Sold out. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com