The Last Shadow Puppets started as an experiment which became critically lauded, mercury nominated and celebrated all the way back in 2008. Alex Turner had two albums under his belt with Arctic Monkeys whilst Miles Kane hadn’t even released his debut album with The Rascals yet. Now in 2016 with their second LP Everything You’ve Come To Expect things are very different, Turner has fronted the biggest band in Britain for a further 3 successful albums – the last of which became an instant classic, whilst Kane has released 2 strong solo albums and has developed his own fan base as a solo outfit. So how do these factors reflect on this album? Where do we find the twosome this time? In Malibu at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La studios of course with James Ford twiddling knobs and Owen Pallett orchestrating the string arrangements. A promising set up but what’s the outcome?
Everything You’ve Come To Expect starts, well…as you’d expect, with ‘Aviation’ which could of slotted anywhere within The Age of the Understatement with its sweeping melancholy, rhythmic gallop and consistent acoustic strum. The opening line pulls us back into their world with the “gloomy conga of glum looking beauties strolling through the opening scene”. Just as you’re expecting the 60s melodrama to continue a sun-kissed chorus leaps into view in the form of ‘Miracle Aligner’ following an old school doo-wop formula. The second track is probably the most infectious of the lot and harks back to Turner’s work on Suck It And See – he’s not done with the 50s and 60s yet.
Although Turner’s lyrics avoid touching on anything new throughout the record, his delivery takes on another turn with an enriched vocal that splashes on the shores of the title track to stunning effect. Actually, the title track is the one which finds all powers involved firing on all cylinders simultaneously – James Ford mixes in an excellent backing vocal whilst Pallett’s soothing strings sweep graciously through the middle section. It’s a real shift in the pair’s songwriting too, hopefully this opens the gateway to more falsetto-induced slow-jams for both of their careers.
That Style Council influence rubs off in ‘The Element of Surprise’ with strings striking slick and fast. The string arrangements are more carefully and subtly set in this time around rather than heaped on top like they were for Understatement. The arrangements are part of the song which is prevalent from the way the album was written with Pallet working next door – allowing Kane and Turner to leave string-shaped gaps in their structures.
‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ taps back into Turner’s romanticism with slightly more randy intentions than “meet me beneath the moon” – he’s more to the point “Baby, we ought to fuck” but perhaps that’s all it takes with his newfound confidence in slicked-back hair and leathers. Gone are the doe-eyed poeticisms and in are the ‘behind the sunglasses’ sleazy gaze, “I haven’t got anything to lick without you baby” he tells his subject matter. This mood finds Turner delivering his most powerful vocal committed to tape in the closing moments sailing his croon to different dimensions: “it’s love like a tongue in a nostril!” he howls.
The string-tugging churn of ‘Used To Be My Girl’ and ‘She Does The Woods’ reflects each other a little too much, if only they were place a track or two apart. The former is a chugging sensual soundtrack to being ‘on the prowl’ whilst the latter ferries a Queens of the Stone Age groove with a smattering of surrealistic imagery of “natural spirographs” and “purple cagoules”. The spotlight remains on Turner for the majority of the LP, that transatlantic drawl just can’t be ignored on record however Miles draws back the spotlight on ‘Pattern’. It’s a spooky affair which borrows 007’s coda and includes a river-dance style instrumental in the mid-section, it shines as a real highlight of the 11 tracks.
‘The Dream Synopsis’ is a swooning closer and feels as if it’s one for the fans, the track explores Turner’s subconscious pairing his two homes in one surreal mash of lyrics: “and a wicked wind came howling up through Sheffield City Centre/There was palm tree debris everywhere”. He even pinpoints Miles Kane in one of the closing lines, it’s a lovely summation of the record.
If you look at Everything You’ve Come To Expect as an extension of Turner and Kane’s day jobs then you’d be using the wrong filter. This is holiday time for the pair experimenting, playing and fooling around as best mates and it’s thoroughly entertaining for the listener too (if you’re a fan). There isn’t really an aim to this record and it doesn’t really attempt to win over anybody new, it’s instead a selection of songs conjured between two songwriters who are clearly enjoying themselves. Let’s hope Kane and Turner find this sweet spot in their schedules somewhere down the line again.
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