Album Review: The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Come to Expect

By on Friday, 22nd April 2016 at 3:30 pm
 

Back in 2008, people were still using the iPhone 3, and Barack Obama wasn’t even the President of the United States yet. It was April of that year when The Last Shadow Puppets released their debut album ‘The Age of the Understatement’, and a lot has changed in that time. The Arctic Monkeys have released three albums – ‘Humbug’, ‘Suck It and See’ and ‘AM’; while Miles Kane has released two solo albums, ‘Colour of the Trap’ and ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ ,and he also parted ways with The Rascals, following the release of their debut album, also in 2008. Not only that, but both Turner and Kane have relocated to Los Angeles. It’s been a long wait. Eight years following its predecessor, ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ as Turner and Kane’s latest collaboration is packed to the hilt with velvet rhythms, crooning warbles and spooky organs aplenty.

The Last Shadow Puppets’ debut album was a commercial success, going straight to number one in the UK Album Charts. ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect ‘has proved to be no different, also landing a number one spot following its release. This marks Turner’s seventh consecutive number one album: no small achievement when considering he’s only just turned 30. The album, recorded in legendary producer Rick Rubin’s Shangri La Studios in Malibu, is now available on Domino Records.

James Ford, who previously worked with the pair on their debut, returns to provide drums, and they’ve added Zach Dawes on bass. The four of them also contribute all manner of instruments throughout the record, from harpsichord to saxophone. This varied mix of music is accompanied on all of the tracks by a plethora of stringed instruments conducted by Owen Pallett, who also worked on the debut album, and Matt Helders (Arctic Monkeys) provides backing vocals on three of the tracks. On paper, there’s quite a lot going on. But it all comes together to create an ambitious collection of songs that sound like they’ve come from the depths of Turner and Kane’s most avant-garde dreams.

As a whole, the album is elegant and a little bit eccentric: it’s subtle and soft in places, before amping up the pair’s flair for drama in other parts. It almost feels like some of the tracks shouldn’t be on the same album together, yet work together in some sort of chaotic cohesion. It’s in the same vein as their previous stuff, but with a move towards experimentation. In other words, it sounds like the kind of album that two talented and close friends might make on the downtime between other commitments.

The first single released from the album, ‘Bad Habits’, is a bit of a stand-alone track in terms of tempo and momentum when compared to the rest of the album. It may have also misled us ahead of the album’s release as to the feel of the record itself. ‘Bad Habits’ opens with a pounding bass hook and feral screech, and from the first moment I heard the initial bars I knew I’d be listening to it again and again. The theatrical swell of strings and guitars that rise and fall throughout the track, alongside Kane’s raw vocals and the intermittent riff of a guitar, makes this feel like psychedelic pop.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGbOF4UPpfs[/youtube]

‘Aviation’, the record’s opening track and the third single released from the album, is one of the four songs on which Kane provides lead vocals. This is the song that feels most like it’s come out of the mould of what the pair has done before, with the steady rhythm of percussion and guitars, and stirrings of strings in the background. It’s an interesting opening to the album, teasing the listener into the realm of the familiar, before moving into slightly more uncharted territory than before. It’s also arguably the only song in history that has including the term “sectorial heterochromia” in the lyrics.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd1Xc6-6VVg [/youtube]

Title track ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ is a bit like the soundtrack to a haunted fairground, with the trippy organ cavorting away in the background. The track moves along with an unhurried march, from the dramatic string arrangement and infrequent banging of drums to the distorted singing of the album title throughout the chorus. Turner’s signature ability to whip up lyrical wonder is evidenced in the track, from the ominously trivial “as I walk through the chalet of the shadow of death”’ of the chorus, to the opening “tiger eyelashes, summer wine / goosebump soup and honey pie”. It’s about as weird and oddly poetic as you could hope for.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9YzPEu1TSw[/youtube]

Standout ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ thumps along with the steady drive of the Bolero, before building into a heartfelt croon. Occasionally, there were times when listening to the album that I heard some of the lyrics, and had to replay to check I’d heard them correctly. On ‘Pattern’, Turner sings, “I slip and I slide / like a spider on an icicle”, and I internally curled up a little at the clumsiness of it. Then the lyrics in ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’, – you’re the first day of spring / with a septum piercing’ – made me question whether or not I thought that they are borderline genius, or self-indulgent nonsense. But by the time Turner cries out “little Miss Sweet Dreams, Tennessee” followed by a wave of strings to play the track out, I was sold.

There are other great tracks on the album. ‘The Element of Surprise’ is quick tongued and lyrically witty, pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from Turner. ‘The Dream Synopsis’ is a bizarre and endearingly personal story of one of Turner’s dreams. The lyrics “and the snow was falling thick and fast / We were bombing down Los Feliz / It was you and me and Miles Kane / and some kid I went to school with” sum up the odd collection of references and moments on this unorthodox track.

Overall, the great moments of the album outweigh the less impressive points. There’s perhaps a little to be desired for some listeners. And on certain tracks, such as ‘She Does the Woods’, seem to slide by without really demanding attention. But, on the whole, I‘m glad that Turner and Kane have come together once more. I’m looking forward to seeing what the pair put together for their next effort: here’s looking at you, 2024.

8/10

The Last Shadow Puppets are currently on a tour of Europe, the USA and Japan, which is set to run until August. They are also scheduled to appear at a number of festivals, including BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Exeter in May and T in the Park in Scotland in July. Visit the band’s Web site for more details on where you can see them live this summer.

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