Despite what Alex Turner and Miles Kane’s second album title would lead us to believe, you can never be too sure what you’re going to get when it comes to ‘side project’ albums. Of course, it’s a treat when these side projects deliver work that’s at least equal to, if not greater than the sum of its parts. And really, who’d expect anything less after 2008’s The Age of the Understatement?
That’s not to say that album two from the Puppets is just a re-hacking of previous material. Everything you’ve come to expect certainly, and so much more besides. The album oozes with a kind of nostalgic charm, embracing the sounds of the mid-century with gusto. Even the album artwork feels like it’s come from the history book – the woman on the front cover could be a young Tina Turner swinging her hair around in the throes of performance. And as for the image of Turner and Kane, sporting a white vest, a brylcreemed ’do and a skinhead respectfully, they look like the lovechildren of several 1960s’ youth subcultures planted in the 21st Century.
But it’s not all backwards looking, the album actually lacks a sense of place and time which is enjoyably disorientating. Lyrics that are, in Turner style, rather batty, are delivered with crooning vocals and lush string arrangements. It creates an unsettling feeling, and you’re not really sure where you’ll be transported next – from the ‘chalet of the Shadow of Death’, to a haunted house with a resident Dracula, or catapulted into the middle of a Bourne film. Sound mental enough for you? Yep, it is. But it’s totally delicious, orchestrated chaos that somehow delivers a stream of subtle meaning through clever word play.
It’s one of the simplest pleasures in life when an album works as an album should, and can be listened to all the way through – thankfully, Everything You’ve Come to Expect does not disappoint on this level. Particular highlights include Miracle Aligner, Sweet Dreams Tennessee, and the title track. The Last Shadow Puppets’ second album might have been a long time in the making but the end product makes up for it.