In the eight years since The Last Shadow Puppets emerged with their defiant mission statement, much has changed in the lives of the northern duo. Former Rascal and Little Flame Miles Kane has built an impressive solo career while Alex Turner’s steady evolution from punk poet to velvet edged crooner remains one of the most surprising and compelling transformations in mainstream rock. Their debut, ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ was a loving and immaculately crafted tribute to Scott Walker and ‘60s baroque pop, soaked in Owen Pallet’s gorgeous string arrangements. For some time though, it appeared as if it would simply be a one-off, with neither party seemingly having the time to set aside for the project, especially after Arctic Monkey’s startling rise in the US following the success of 2013’s ‘AM’.
In the end it proved to be the perfect opportunity for a stopgap after several years of constant touring. As its title would suggest, follow up ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ delivers more of the same without being too predictable but more importantly, inhabits much darker and exciting new spaces. Even the most ardent of fans would have been shocked upon hearing fiery promotional single ‘Bad Habits’. Led by Kane’s vicious Rottweiler bark of a vocal, flashes of harsh, staccato horror movie strings provide a superb extension to the duo’s already familiar sound. ‘Dracula Teeth’ and ‘Pattern’ are a pair of slower but similarly delightful excursions featuring hypnotic, ‘70s soul-inspired grooves and swirling orchestral backdrops.
Although Kane is in fine voice throughout, this feels like Turner’s album (which is perhaps just as well given Kane’s hideous sexist behaviour in a recent interview). Close to every track demonstrates Turner's irresistible way with melody, as on ‘Miracle Aligner’ or the glorious, psychedelia tinged title track. Lyrically, he’s as cryptic as ever and appears to have found a new penchant for slippery tongue-twisters: “Dirtbag ballet by the bins down the alley / As I walk through the chalet of the shadow of death” goes one of his most memorable lines. It comes as no surprise then that the two strongest tracks here were both penned solely by the Arctic Monkeys frontman. ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ begins with his typically down to earth assertions of love, “it’s really just the pits without you baby” before building to a towering, heart stopping finale.
‘Everything…’ suffers an unfortunate lull towards the back end of the album, perhaps in an attempt to offer some radical variation to what has just preceded it. However, it’s a risk that doesn’t quite pay off. ‘Used To Be My Girl’ is ponderous at best and doesn’t really go anywhere while the slightly better ‘She Does The Woods’ channels the gloopy, Queens Of The Stone Age indebted swamp rock the Arctic Monkeys perfected on ‘Humbug’. This is well worn territory but luckily it’s only a momentary lapse. The dazzling imagery of sumptuous piano ballad ‘The Dream Synopsis’ soon dispels any wrong doing and finishes proceedings on a triumphant note. As The Last Shadow Puppets, Kane and Turner have served up an exquisite offering that is melodically rich, diverse, and more complex than its predecessor, centred around a collection of undeniably terrific tunes.
Words: Luke Winstanley
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