A lot has happened in the eight years since the Last Shadow Puppets’ debut album, Alex Turner has released three well received albums with Arctic Monkeys and even released a solo EP, Miles Kane has released two solo albums which were not as well received. For many, Arctic Monkeys are the voice of a generation and Alex Turner may prove to be the last true British rock icon, an icon whose presence has grown since Arctic Monkeys finally broke the US with AM. As a result, it’s easy to view this offering as an Alex Turner project featuring Miles Kane. However, ‘Aviation’ the opening track on Everything You’ve Come To Expect shows us this is not the case. The shuddering strings open the album followed by Kane’s jabbing voice. He’s here with the same swaggering bravado he showed on the Colour of the Trap, his breakthrough solo album. Turner comes in on the second verse with a similar confidence, these are not the young men from the Age of Understatement these a fully grown rockstars. Whilst it is not the strongest track on the album, ‘Aviation’ is the perfect introduction to the new look Last Shadow Puppets.
‘Miracle Aligner’, the second track on the album is a gentler affair. Here, Turner takes the lead, the conversational tone of the lyrics ‘all of our exchanges are by candlelight, I just realised’ are reminiscent of his lyrical work on the early Arctic Monkeys’ albums. Many die-hard fans complained that Turner had lost his audience with his AM era persona but here one cannot help be drawn in by the genuine tone of Turner’s lyrics. The sighing, dreamlike melody is evocative of a pining lover which offsets the sleaziness of the lyrics. Only Alex Turner could make ‘get down on your knees’ sound endearing.
‘Dracula Teeth’ is a particular highlight. The opening strings are reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘You Only Live Twice’ soaring before dropping us off into arpeggiated guitars which leaves ample space for James Ford’s bass to climb and drive the song forward. Here the image of the femme fatale is built using horror movie imagery. The camp lyrics ‘c’est horrifique’ make an odd fit with the sophistication of the music, an odd but perfect fit. The repetition of the ‘Dracula Teeth’ during the strings led outro forces the listener to acknowledge the absurdity of the lyrics as we are led to one of the most absurd tracks on the record.
Ironically, the title track is the complete opposite of what we have come to expect from TLSP. This topsy-turvy waltzing track is as absurd as ‘Dracula Teeth’ but musically it could not be more different. Here the lack of bass is noticeable, the strings push the song forward at a meandering pace, leading the listener in circles. The ‘never ending spiral[ling]’ track forces one to pay particular attention to the lyrics. The hypnotic music is match by similarly dreamlike images ‘four horsemen in a one horse race’ images of the absurd are central to the song ‘croc-skin collar on a diamond duck’. But like a dream, the emotions in the song aren’t removed from reality. In fact it is here where the macho personas of the earlier tracks begins to crack, Turner tries to understand the woman he is pining for ‘I guess the coastal air gets a girl to reflect’, his insecurities are exposed ‘I just can’t get the thought of you and him out of my head’ and he even speaks of regret.
Whilst ‘Everything You’ve Come to Expect’ is the complete opposite of what we have come to expect, ‘the Element of Surprise’ isn’t surprising at all. After the album’s strong start, the weakness of this track is clear. The music rattles on at a comfortable pace over which Turner’s vocals are lazily layered. This track does have some charm; Owen Pallett’s strings flourish subtly and some of Turner’s lyrics are as relatable and charming as they ever were ‘do you end all your messages with “x marks the spot”?’ nevertheless this track is one of the album’s weakest.
The lead single ‘Bad Habits’ received a mixed reception when it was released earlier in the year. The simplistic lyrics and Miles Kane’s snappy, sometimes screaming vocals were jarring. Furthermore, public opinion turned away from Kane after an article was released accusing him of sexual harassment, which makes his reference to a woman as a ‘little girl’ come off as somewhat creepy. However, the Miles Kane’s shouting vocals are matched by the equally erratic strings and while this song is jarring, it is intentionally so. Moreover, Kane’s lead on this track gives the album an injection of emotion when it is in danger of going flat.
This is shown in the already fan favourite ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’. Here, Turner pines for his love ‘completely falling to bits’. However, his adopted Elvis-like persona seems artificial and for the first time in the album the music feels as though it is too big for his voice, as though he can’t keep up with the rolling and marching of the drums.
‘Used To Be My Girl’ sees both Kane and Turner taking it in turns to sing the lead vocals. The verses here are whispered seductively over guitars which clang complacently and broken up with short, buzzing fills which are more annoying than anything else. The highlight of this track is the outro where the melody rides the strings to the end of the track, redeeming the song.
‘She Does The Woods’ sounds like ‘Humbug’ era Arctic Monkeys. The fuzziness of the guitars at the end of the chorus, the jabbing chords during the verse and the subtlety of the strings create a song with layers and variety. Turner and Kane’s vocals thrive, the pre-chorus sees them throwing lines at each other ‘they’re in comfortable shoes/they’re in purple cagoules’. This track may be the finest moment on the album and it gets better with every listen, from the bassy bridge to the silky vocals this tracks is genius from beginning to end.
‘Pattern’, comes at a point in the album where we know the basis of TLSP songs, jangling guitars, plodding bass and subtle strings. Therefore, this track seems tired and compared to the rest of the album it feels like filler.
The piano led ‘Dream Synopsis’ is a fitting end to an album whose lyrics straddle the line between dreams and reality. Turner juxtaposes ‘Sheffield City Centre’ with the ‘Roman Colosseum’ an interesting comment showing how far Turner has come in the fifteen years, from a teenager in Sheffield to selling out arenas worldwide. These ‘inseparable but opposing images’ are the backbone of the album, symbolic of Turner’s split loyalties between his new Elvis like persona an his Yorkshire roots, something he clearly feels guilt for ‘isn’t it awful when I talk about my dreams’. Nevertheless, Turner is able to find solace in the album’s addressee- his girlfriend, Taylor Bagley. Throughout the album Turner drops references to his new girlfriend from her ‘septum piercing’ in ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ or skiing in Los Feliz in ‘The Dream Synopsis’. On the other hand, very little of Kane’s personality comes through on these tracks. As Turner sings on ‘The Dream Synposis’, ‘it was you and me and Miles Kane’ Miles Kane feels like a third wheel on this album, a featuring artist. Everything You’ve Come To Expect is a testament to Turner’s songwriting ability, Pallett’s string compositions, Ford’s production skills, and confirmation the Kane is unable to escape Turner’s looming, iconic shadow.