Everything You’ve Come to Expect (The Last Shadow Puppets) – review

Is its title somewhat ironic? How much of a surprise can The Last Shadow Puppets’ follow-up album provide after a gentle eight-year-long break for the heartbreakingly charming duo? On April Fool’s Day, Everything You’ve Come to Expect was released to the world: adoring cheerleaders for the Turner/Kane double act, bored Monkeys fans in need of some new material, and the rest of us. As ever, Alex Turner shows his indifference to everyone else’s idea of a good time with not a hoax in sight.

Setting up for the pair’s touring season ahead, the album ticks all the right boxes for an effective live show: fans are already screaming for ‘Aviation’ to begin, while the meat of the setlist allows for plenty of satisfying bromance opportunities. There is just the right amount of Alex Turner’s lyrical genius running through the album to keep this boat afloat.

But is it enough to give TLSP credibility as a stand-alone artist, proving with this comeback that they want more than status as a one-trick pony AM tribute act? The trademark Shadow Puppets sound has a hazy twang, as the real world fades to black and we drive into the sunset, all of us part of a very hip western orchestrated by the cheeky knowing eyes of Alex Turner and Miles Kane.

Inevitably, the album reeks of other influences from the pair’s past and present. Arctic Monkey’s Humbug seeps between the lines, the more storytelling tracks reminiscing the enigmatic narratives of ‘Crying Lightning’ or ‘Secret Door’. It’s this sense of fictional mystery married to the toe-tapping, tambourine embellished and nostalgia-inducing instrumentals that make these tracks the ideal premises for the sweetest of dreams.

It is in fact those that focus more heavily on the ethereal and dream world influence that are the strongest songs on the album. ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ gives Turner vocal and lyrical spotlight, transcending all stylistic pretenses and darkly seducing every lonely teenager and lusting fan that ever did exist. ‘The Dream Synopsis’ feels like an extension of Turner’s score for Submarine, intertwining with more underrated efforts from Suck It and See with evocative chimes and romantic keys.

It’s unfortunately through numbers which offer an equal share of the spotlight that the album hits its weak spot. Although visually TLSP are forever a treat, at times harmonies between Turner and Kane feel somewhat washed out and distant. These distant vocals, stylized and underscored with great cinematic string arrangements, do tend to feel a bit burnt out. Perhaps it’s the old lady within me that just would like better enunciation of vowels from time to time.

TLSP’s efforts, channeling 70’s soft rock and giving their sound an enigmatic edge, mostly pay off, but can feel stuck in the past. The album’s title track struggles to stand out and feels stiff – moments of poetry and velvety vocals seep through, but an overall naff and dated aesthetic makes it blend too much into the background. ‘Bad Habits’ takes this into overdrive, Kane taking the lead on vocals. Most definitely a great crowd pleaser live, amidst more subtle tracks on the album, this punchy number does unfortunately fall flat, becoming more cringe-worthy than old-school cool.

Everything You’ve Come to Expect does indeed provide a satisfying follow-up, the chemistry between Alex Turner and Miles Kane never tires. There are some truly lovely lyrics to keep in Turner’s repertoire and a few upbeat catchy numbers too. It’s not groundbreaking, but it fulfills its purpose – ideal background music for the coolest coffee shops and niche indie films, and extremely pleasing live score for Alex and Miles to rekindle their love onstage. Musically fine, emotionally great, although a little bit safe and sometimes cheesy, Everything That You’ve Come to Expect is good enough for me.

★★★☆☆

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