by Patrick Williams
Smooth and slick, composed and orchestral, Everything You’ve Come to Expect, the new album from The Last Shadow Puppets, projects stories of love and lust through a Malibu sieve. Fronted by Miles Kane and the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, the band have ditched nearly all of their sonic manifestations of anxiety from their 2008 debut, The Age of the Understatement, in favor of suavity and sex appeal. The English musicians recorded their debut in London in their early ‘20s, when they fronted mop-top hairdos and airs of boyish charm. Now both 30 years old, pop icon Turner and the lesser-known Kane, don styled hair and shaved heads, respectively, and are producing videos with models on beaches.
One way to view Everything You’ve Come to Expect is as a playbook of poetic come-ons paired with psychedelic baroque pop. On album opener “Aviation,” over swinging guitar arpeggios and slinking string sections, Turner croons in his thick British accent, “Where’d you want it? / It’s your decision honey / My planet or yours? / Sectoral heterochromia.” “Bad Habits” comparatively sounds more like aggravated stoner rock than the calming wash of sea foam. As bassist Zach Dawes runs his fingers up the fretboard and the string musicians bow avant-garde screeches, Kane belts out, “Do you wanna hold hands? / Should we go back down?” The track contains some of the more elementary lyrics on Everything You’ve Come to Expect. However, Kane’s confident delivery remains consistent with the album’s concept.
Another more honest and intriguing way to view this album is as the disassembly of innumerable feelings brought on by romance. Turner’s songwriting has always been impressive, but it reaches new heights on tracks like “Pattern,” about regrettable affairs in the night, and “The Dream Synopsis,” which begins with a verse about an affair at work and moves on to the woman’s apparent disinterest in his dreams. On the soothing, piano- and string-driven “Everything You’ve Come to Expect,” he excitedly mashes together phrases that call to mind songs from The Beatles’ White Album (Goosebump soup and Honey Pie / Piggy in the middle, I’m the baddy’s daddy). Trading off lines with Kane, he confesses he can’t shake the image of his romantic interest with another man.
After eight years, The Last Shadow Puppets have again released something remarkable, this time with the instrumental maturity and lyrical depth to match their always-heightened ambitions. From the Transylvanian references to a love affair in “Dracula Teeth” to the existential crisis of “The Bourne Identity,” Turner and Kane cast an inescapable shadow on the doubts and assurances of rich and intricate pursuits.