The Last Shadow Puppets are a brainchild of Arctic Monkeys’ front man Alex Turner and Miles Kane, lead singer of Scouse band The Rascals. Both are very good friends and have been for a number of years before their 2008 formation due to their similar loves for music. The music that was spawned from their debut album ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ was something no Arctic Monkeys fan had heard before as an orchestral sound was introduced alongside the guitar riffs and vocals to create a more mysterious but majorly empowering sound. Hits such as ‘Standing Next To Me’ and ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You’ are often referred to as some of the best work from either Kane or Turner and this album promised much with their long awaited return. Alex had just broke records with ‘AM’, headlined Glastonbury and became an all conquering God of the indie genre; Miles on the other hand had released a couple of solo albums, the first of which was eponymous and charted well across the country but he has always wanted that special connection back with his best friend.
Aviation – 9/10
Starts like something from a horror movie with a screeching orchestral sound before the classic Shadow Puppets sound kicks in. A wonderful continual guitar riff, a pacy drum beat and a raspy Miles Kane vocal in the verse. This song is truly magical as far as I’m concerned and only gets better in the chorus as Alex a Turner provides a soft backing vocal to give Miles Kane more of a punch in his delivery. What I love most about this song is the variation lyrically, even the chorus changes as the song goes on which gives the song a fresh sound and is only helped by the use of the string instruments during the bridge which creates a powerful sound along with the typical modern day band format. If this is a sign of things to come I really can’t wait for the rest of this album.
Miracle Aligner – 8/10
Now it’s the turn of Alex a Turner to be the lead singer as he demonstrates his soft British tone on a song which is hugely reminiscent of his soundtrack recordings for the film ‘Submarine’ where he maintains a high key of vocal on a psychedelic backing track. Lyrically this song tells a story of a man who seems to know it all and is described as the “Miracle Aligner” who can help anyone with anything. Alex Turner is perhaps talking about a girl in need of love and so needs to prove her worth to this man but her shy persona is holding her back. “Go and get him tiger, get down on your knees again” could be a way of encouraging her to approach him and pray for his gratitude but is more than likely a hint towards oral sex and the motive of selling herself in he name of love. The song as a whole tells a great story and is a very easy listen, not as good as ‘Aviation’ but it’s still a top track.
Dracula Teeth – 7/10
Dark and mysterious with attitude in abundance. The pair of them provide a high key on their vocal as they harmonise for each other and sing side by side. Alex Turner is the predominant figure on this song, however and does have a strong performance which is only strengthened by Miles’ back up. I absolutely love the breaks in between vocal for this magnificent demonstration of instrumental talent with a beautiful chord structure on the guitar alongside a heavy 5 crashes of drums. These are regular occurrences towards the end of the song and provide a necessary break from the singing and balance the edge of this song. It’s a good song with a solid vocal performance but as mentioned, the instrumentation steals the show.
Everything You’ve Come To Expect – 7.5/10
As Beatles as it gets. If this doesn’t remind you of John Lennon during his LSD times or even a softer version of a Tame Impala track then Lord knows what will. Wobbly vocal by Turner in the verses provides almost a trippy emotion as this song creates a scenario of drug use and lavish lifestyles in its lyrics. Quite a sad story within the song as the title suggests a sense of disappointment and letting people down, mainly through his heavy drug usage. Perhaps the first insight into Alex Turner’s lifestyle which many have assumed involves drugs such as cocaine which, if true, are demonstrated brilliantly in this song. A bit of a sour note but the song as a whole works well, won’t be the sort of song you will hear every day and for that reason I like it; shows once again the variety of these two maestros.
The Element Of Surprise – 6.5/10
Arctic Monkeys style guitar riff mixed with this classic orchestra creates a mesh of effective and easy listening sounds, a very strong instrumental which should pave the way for a great singing showing. This whispering style that Alex Turner has taken upon himself while pursuing his solo career doesn’t tick the right boxes on this song. It just feels like this song was screaming out for a bit of Arctic Monkeys attitude in his voice but we never got it. Bring back Miles Kane to give this album some more edge again like the first few songs.
Bad Habits – 9/10
Ask and you shall receive. Unbelievable song this one in which Miles Kane shows passion and aggression in his tone as a seemingly strained vocal matches the bizarre instrumental wonderfully. Short, snappy and explosive in every possible way; making this one of the best songs I’ve heard this year. There’s nothing too complicated with the lyrics as Miles delivers the chorus and verses with accomplished and masterful ability. There are parts to this song which can just sound like pure noise but the way it’s all just thrown together makes it seem rough in a good way, it’s that edge that people have been screaming out for. The violins in the chorus are frantic and energetic, matching this pace and frustration in Miles’ vocal which we assume is from a girl’s behaviour in a relationship. This is backed up by Alex singing “should’ve known little girl that you’d do me wrong” implying that this girl has picked up some “bad habits” if you will and used them against him. Comfortably the best song on the album and will sound even more manic live I can imagine.
Sweet Dreams, TN – 7.5/10
Much more of an Arctic Monkeys vocal by Alex Turner as he takes centre stage for this song with his fantastic northern rasp. The story within this song is all about a girl who has taken over his thought process, so much so that he doesn’t “recognise this fool you’ve made of me” he says to this girl. The message of not letting yourself be altered by another person, especially not in love is prominent here and shows a strong meaning. I love the proper band sound of this song as the symphonic sound takes a back seat for the majority of this song, it gives fans a nice little reminder of what we are all missing from Alex since his hiatus from the Arctic Monkeys. The orchestra do appear in the bridge for the remainder of the song but they are welcomed on and help add that extra twist to a fairly strong track.
Used To Be My Girl – 7/10
This hard Raconteurs style sound of strong string focus on guitars works well here as they are an integral part of this song when featured, often as a stand alone piece between lyrics. Hearing the both of them so clearly singing side by side is always pleasant as part of the reason of their success has been the wonderful balance their two voices create and it’s no different here. It’s good as a short, snappy song and works as a follow up to the previous song you feel as the effects of breaking away from this seemingly manipulative girl have taken their toll on Alex; so he sings about how happy he was with her despite those obvious flaws she possesses. Pretty good track this one but won’t be in the memory bank for too long, it helps give clarity on the looming storyline of the last song but that’s about it.
She Does The Woods – 7.5/10
The stand out aspect of this song is definitely the shock repetitive sound made by the backing instruments a couple of times per line in the verse. It makes this song much more mysterious and hard hitting as the delivery becomes much sharper. Miles provides a brilliant backing vocal on a typically dominant and arrogant display by Alex as he sings about the arguments he has with this girl and how little these things she says affects him. The line in the chorus in which he tells her to “jump in the river” says it all really as he seems more than content with himself and doesn’t want to be bossed around. I like this song a lot as it once again has a different sound to it and shows a bit of range on Alex’s voice as he shows a bit more passion in the chorus to mix it up. It’s a catchy tune that is only aided by the aforementioned constant crash noise in the verses.
Pattern – 6.5/10
Strong guitar riff that sounds a bit 80s and it really sets the tone for the song immediately. Compliments Miles’ voice well as this song takes a slower and more mellow approach to what we usually expect from these two. I personally think that this song becomes quite dull in the chorus and doesn’t really have much going for it until the symphonies of the orchestra kick in for the pre-chorus and the chorus itself as it takes some of the pressure off the stand alone guitar riff. You do struggle to hear Miles’ vocal towards the end as the instrumental gets louder and louder towards the end before a sudden finish to the track. Gets better as it goes on but not on the level of the first songs of the album.
The Dream Synopsis – 6.5/10
Piano and vocal combination isn’t something we normally associate with these two but it’s the direction they choose to go down here and for what it is, it’s fairly good. Probably the best vocal performance of the whole album as a crisp and consistent delivery makes for pleasant listening. The mentioning of Sheffield city centre will be sure to go down a treat for local day one fans of Alex Turner as he speaks about a “gust of wind” dawning upon his hometown, adding depth to a story of love and loss. It’s a good song for what it is as I have mentioned but won’t be a memorable hit from this album. Seems bizarre how drastic a fall the album takes really.
The Bourne Identity – 6/10
The turn of Alex Turner again and it sounds once again like a Submarine B-side through he verses before the single chord strike of a guitar gives the song more edge in the chorus and re-creates more of that typical Last Shadow Puppets sound. The build up of pace in Alex’s vocal in the chorus is effective too and keeps you interested rather than an otherwise quite boring vocal performance. Aided massively by the backing track which, as expected, is high quality but can drown Alex out a bit. The album appears to take a bit of a nosedive with these few songs after such a strong start which is a shame really considering the potential this album possssed.
Overall – 7.5/10
This album provides two of my favourite songs of the year in ‘Aviation’ and ‘Bad Habits’ with their arrogance and manic styles but there are signs of variety all the way through the project. There’s the potential to go a bit slower and more like a symphony as they have tried towards the end; personally I didn’t enjoy this because it sounded too much like B-sides of Alex Turner’s solo stuff but I can see why people would like it. The album started off incredibly, the first three songs gave it the potential for album of the year status but it dropped off towards the end unfortunately. This doesn’t mean it’s not a great album and yet another triumph for the seemingly untouchable Alex Turner. Miles Kane was also top draw with his performances and will be proud of the end product. I do still prefer their debut album, however and think it will take something quite special to top that. Despite that I loved it so well in lads, see you at Sheffield City Hall on Sunday.