A humid spring-coming-into-summer, is what The Last Shadow Puppets are.
First impressions of this century’s band extraordinaire run along the lines of overwhelming. They are, after all, the synopsis of an eight year hiatus, written in some seventies California dream. Their second album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect, which debuted in April, is an unexpected surprise. It is as if you’ve accidentally gotten the wrong drink, but fell for it more than your usual. It is exactly the record of the summer. The orange-tinged poolside, the salacious, barely-buttoned shirts, the inebriated confessions and vague retellings. The Shadow Puppets are the product of intimacy and inspiration entwining, as if you’re pitching Gainsbourg on an electric guitar.
A rare rock baroque experience, Everything You’ve Come To Expect is delightfully dichotomous. The title track is a psychedelic blank verse, reciting references to Nancy Sinatra, the Beatles, David Bowie and Joy Division. It’s chorus is a dreamy back and forth croon. Aviation, with a particularly puppet-y sound, is exciting and full of remarkable metaphors. The lack of cliché is amongst the best things about the band’s music – a result of two lyrical geniuses coming together. The shimmery Miracle Aligner sounds almost classical, fit to play from a gold-needled record player when you are at your happiest. Dracula Teeth could be the soundtrack to an old Italian horror, with dainty French phrases and moody orchestral sound. The complexity which comes with the fitting string parts adds to the unique aspects of the band. It shines in The Element Of Surprise, sung in soft voices, spinning stories. The more contentious tune is the true-rock Bad Habits, catchy and gritty and flaunting Miles Kane’s virtuosity with yelling, and the guitar. A country-tinged ballade, Sweet Dreams, TN, has Alex Turner exhibiting his vocal talents (which later shine even more in the band’s cover of Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.”) The heated Used To Be My Girl is full of iambic lines and catchy brilliance. The supergroup title is clearly earned in many aspects besides Kane and Turner’s fame outside of their band. Every tune features some unmistakable identity of the Shadow Puppets. She Does The Woods, as widely believed, is a ridiculously poetic innuendo. The semantics are only fully clear to Kane and Turner, but perhaps that is part of their thing. Pattern, a personal favourite, is an avant-garde short film. Vocally and musically beautiful, it turns a gig into an intimate, dimly-lit bar. The closing piece, The Dream Synopsis, is an earnest retelling of an abstract dream. The lyrical weirdness, the musical proficiency, the tone of delivery, make the song a unique monologue. The Bourne Identity, a B-side of sorts, reminds of a lovely acoustic improvisation, remarking on identity and its loss. The entirety of the album, once again, is an experience to last an entire summer.
The acutely convoluted album betrays the spectacularly unkempt behavior and appearance of the duo. Not in a bad way at all. No artificial effort is involved in their performance. They effortlessly construct the setting of gold-rimmed bohemia, a smoking reality, a little part on the edge of an intimate scene. As one might say, they are “inseparable opposing images.” Miles Kane is a wired rock star, and Alex Turner is his darker accomplice. Their relationship flares onstage.
When I see them in New York, and later in Berlin, they are unbelievably vibrant. They tour a full five months, and remain elated and magical, vocally brilliant and musically talented. If anything, they continuously add more to their repertoire. I’m lucky to witness their take on the Beatles “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” The earnest pleasure, with which they preform, fuels the audience like no other band. They play and reflect off of one-another, talented and irreplaceable.
The Last Shadow Puppets are a fusion of attitude, impression, fashion, scenery, lyrics, and sound. The backbends and the dancing, the embracing, the jovial singing and the rockstar vibe. The dimly-lit concert halls and falling petals, orange and blue lighting. Matching as a mod mob, writing like no one has and playing like a rock’n’roll orchestra. I’m not sure its anything anyone could’ve expected. The end of their tour poses the questions – “when can you come back again?”
– Alice Pylypenko