It’s been a long time coming, the sequel to 2008’s The Age of Understatement, and eight years on The Last Shadow Puppets’ sophomore effort had big shoes to fill. Fresh off the back of two number-one Arctic Monkeys albums, Alex Turner teamed up with his friend Miles Kane off The Rascals to produce the Mercury Prize nominated, number-one album Understatement. Full of rambling poeticisms and a string section to signal that this was a new group which had no typical self-doubts of a new band. Understatement created a cult fandom; those who loved the lyrical stylings of Turner and Kane and indeed the overall musical product of what the created when playing guitar in the same room together. Imagine the joy when, in January, they announced that the title of the album would be Everything You’ve Come to Expect.
Then imagine the confusion when Bad Habits was released as the first single from the album. Turner took a back seat on the vocals as Kane called out a series of short, snappy lines about nothing in particular besides the sexual undertones which are relentless through the track (and to a degree the album). The opening verse in its entirety being: ‘Bad Habits, / Sick Puppy, / Thigh High, / Knee Deep’. An addictive bass guitar riff by new TLSP addition Zach Dawes of Mini Mansions was some kind of salvation for those potentially disappointed. Not exactly echoing Understatement, but undeniably signalling a new direction for the band – lusty eroticisms which arose in 2013’s AM evidently carrying through into Turner’s new work, and thus to TLSP. Fans were worried – surely the boys hadn’t lost their mojo? Surely this wasn’t the best track off the album?
Thankfully, it wasn’t. In the build up to the album’s release the title track Everything You’ve Come to Expect and Aviation, the opening track on the album, were released – and they were much more what we were expecting. The eponymous track boasting the verbal mastery which Turner has become associated with had returned with flair. Slowed right down from Bad Habits, the title track flaunted Kane and Turner’s vocal prowess with falsetto harmonies and lines such as ‘Dirtbag ballet by the bins down the alley as / I walk through the chalet of the shadow of death’ – the Puppets were back on form. Aviation, however, is a masterstroke. Combining strong vocal performances with a sublime-yet-simple guitar riff, accompanied by Owen Pallet’s string arrangement lead to possibly the best track on the album. Why they didn’t announce the album with this, we may never know, yet perhaps it was the cheeky humour stylings of Turner and Kane throwing a curveball at fans, given the album’s title. Regardless, it’s a fantastic opening number and best epitomises what the Puppets are about.
The album was soon released, and, in truth, I was slightly nervous. I’d been talking about how great this album would be for so long and I was hoping for something special to follow AM and indeed Understatement. The album is not without flaw, but undeniably a success. Turner and Kane demonstrate fine form, and Everything You’ve Come to Expect generally flows and has a consistency across lyrics and melodies. Three huge high points from the album-only tracks are surely Miracle Aligner, Sweet Dreams, TN and The Dream Synopsis. On Miracle Aligner, Kane supports Turner’s wide vocal range on an acoustic guitar, harkening back to the duo’s debut stylistically, even if lyrical subject matter has changed. Sweet Dreams, TN is the unexpected gift of Everything You’ve Come to Expect. A love song with a twist – sexual imagery pervades every fibre of this wannabe-ballad. From the driving drum beat behind the rise and fall of the melody before a raucous musical climax as the number comes to a close. This song is an absolute must listen (since the album came out I’ve probably listened to this track off the album more than any other). The closing track, The Dream Synopsis, is worthy of note also. Penned by Turner alone, he slows the album right down with a piano part to start – even referencing his roots of ‘Sheffield City Centre’. Arguably his most self-aware release in a long time, the album ends on relationship self-doubt – ‘It must be torture when I talk about my dreams’, contrasting the confidence the duo profess to have with women in the rest of the album. It seemed rather fitting to end with the vail of bravado being torn down, exposing a maturity which couldn’t have been attained last time around.
As I mentioned, the album isn’t without flaw. Bad Habits sticks out like a sore thumb – its inclusion breaks up the tone, flow and overall quality of the album. I would absolutely call that out as a low point. A couple of the tracks also have a hint of forgetability about them – Dracula Teeth and The Element of Surprise fall into this category. They didn’t blow me away by any means.
All in all, Everything You’ve Come to Expect is a triumph. Turner and Kane consistently deliver a strong command of their craft, and, with a few blips, show how they’ve come to be so highly regarded in the British music scene. It’s not by any means a head-banger, but the boys are on to something great. The album is unsurprisingly confident, and builds on everything that they’ve done before – together and separately – creating a great album which is a must-listen for 2016.