The Last Shadow Puppets-The Dream Synopsis EP

By | Published December 6, 2016

Rating: ★★★★☆

After Everything You’ve Come to Expect was released in April, adding another number one album to the ever growing collection of Alex Turner and Miles Kane, the boys embarked on a global tour. Turner grew notorious for unpredictable onstage antics, and Kane confirmed himself to be on par with his bandmate as one of Britain’s best live performers. I saw them on their final UK date at Alexandra Palace in July and was blown away. They were exciting, they oozed charisma and flaunted a surplus of chemistry together as they prowled around the stage; they’re both old hands by now, despite each only having just entered their thirties. The tracks off their new album received a raucous reception, but they threw in a selection of covers that received a more mixed reaction from the crowd. Whilst being supremely performed, it seemed like a notable percentage of onlookers didn’t recognise many of these hits – and with The Dream Synopsis EP The Last Shadow Puppets set out to fix this.

It’s important to take this EP as what it is, and not expect more of it than is fair – it was recorded in a single day at Future-Past Studios in New York, abandoning the tranquil beauty of Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios in California where EYCTE was recorded. It instantly comes in and announces itself to be a pseudo-live album – the first thing we hear on the record is Kane’s scouse tones announcing, ‘Ok, we are rolling,’ and while they open with Aviation, as they did on EYCTE, the discordant opening strings are replaced with some chatter. This recurs throughout the EP, most notably on the opening of Les Cactus, where bellowing laughter at the beginning doesn’t particularly work and breaks up the flow of The Dream Synopsis EP as we’re diverted from the music further while we wait for more from the boys. We get another ‘We’re rolling,’ post-laughter, but the intro is excessive and jars what is otherwise one of the best tracks on the record.

In terms of the re-recorded tracks – Aviation and The Dream Synopsis itself – they both benefit from a face lift on the EP. The lead guitar riff which gave Aviation its edge over so many of the other tracks on the album was always fiddled around with by Turner on stage this summer, adding flourishes in between repeats, and this is exactly what we get, albeit sparingly, on this version (notably on ‘Strolling through the opening scene’). Musically, this version sounds like a carbon copy of their live performance of this track, although something feels missing – it’s hollowed, the missing part: the crowd, which fed off this track, clinging on to and calling back every word which Kane confidently delivered. It’s good, don’t get me wrong – whenever this track is performed by Turner and Kane they make the most of it, but having seen the way the crowd responds to this tune, in doing what is essentially a live version of it, you can’t help but notice their glaring absence. The same isn’t the case for The Dream Synopsis. Forever brilliant, this tune is stripped back, slowed down and loved up. A single saxophone plays the same tune as Kane’s electric guitar did, but the tone of the piece is radically different as a result; a welcome change which makes this performance of the closing track a beautiful re-imagining as opposed to a successful re-recording.

Amongst the covers, it’s the same story as the originals. While all are objectively ‘good’ they’re split down the middle as to being brilliant. When TLSP covered The Fall’s Totally Wired back in July it wasn’t the strongest part of the set by any means. The crowd just didn’t go for it and as a result it lacked the power that the rest of their set evoked. It must be noted, to their credit, that, with the exception potentially of Bad Habits, there was a continued tone across EYCTE – a laid back, tongue-twister of an album, and Totally Wired doesn’t particularly fit this mould. In a set laden with TLSP’s unique brand of strings, riffs and complicated lyrics, the in-your-face cover stuck out, and to a lesser degree it does so again. The lyrics are repetitive, sharp, and delivered well by Kane who nails the aggressive rock vocals, and the strings work well when they finally come to the fore. The Glaxo Babies cover This is Your Life works better with its low brooding vocals, but still seems to fall just short of being ‘brilliant’.

The same can’t be said for Is This What You Wanted and Les Cactus. For me these two tracks contained the most exciting moments of the EP. After Turner cries to the large TLSP band ‘Get down!’ the band proceeds to deliver a stunning musical performance. Kane’s electric guitar screeching over the string quartet’s driving melody. The lyrical tone is very Turner; the Sheffield man has noted Leonard Cohen’s influence before, and his recent passing gives this sublime cover an added level of importance on the EP. Les Cactus is powerful, a surprising French turn, and, above all else, exciting. Turner’s vocals are strong as ever the band backs delivers a frenzied percussion led accompaniment, combining to create the most striking track on the record.

It’s a shame that The Dream Synopsis EP only contained a few of The Last Shadow Puppets’ covers, a glaring omission is the Moonage Daydream Bowie cover which was a highlight of their Glastonbury set and was a raucous climax to their Alexandra Palace date in July. Overall however the EP is successful in giving us solid performances from Turner and Kane; an unexpected gift after they said the tour would be their last activity together for a while. The covers are solid, as are their re-workings of EYCTE tracks, but on a couple of songs on this record there’s a hollow feeling – a lot of these tunes are at their best in front of an adoring audience. But The Dream Synopsis EP goes to show, when Alex Turner and Miles Kane team up, great things happen.