Sometimes there’s just no denying the importance of context. It is quite conceivable that had the Arctic Monkeys this week released Everything You’ve Come To Expect, as opposed to Alex Turner/ Miles Kane side project The Last Shadow Puppets, then we would be standing here talking about yet another triumph from the ever-reliable Sheffield group. The very fact that this is NOT the new Arctic Monkeys record however makes the collaboration’s second, somewhat ironically named album, all the more problematic as a result.
Principally speaking this is a stylistic issue, with the respective career paths of both Kane and Turner since their first collaboration a possible justification. Whereas TLSP’s 2008 debut The Age of the Understatement supplied an interestingly unique double take on the grandiose, theatrical style of Scott Walker, this record cannot help but revert to a much more familiar, identifiable indie sound.
From the moment you first hear the wonderfully melodic, steely vigour of opening track ‘Aviation’, you instantly get the feeling you’ve been here before, and the longer Everything You’ve Come To Expect continues, the more evident it is that Turner has his prints all over it. Songs like ‘Dracula Teeth’, ‘The Element of Surprise’, and ‘She Does The Woods’ encapsulate the cheeky, carefree era of a young, mid-noughties Arctic Monkeys, while the likes of ‘Bad Habits’, and ‘Used To Be My Girl’ echo more of Turner’s own LA alternative revival. Kane does of course try and and make his presence felt, with ‘Pattern’ probably his most obvious contribution, but Turner’s overwhelming influence means he is effectively muted, an unfortunate scenario given his promising solo career during the group’s hiatus.
While the pair’s tendency to play it safe leads to something of a mid-album stasis, it would be a huge disservice to The Last Shadow Puppets to suggest there were no fresh ideas on offer here. Excellent numbers like the rather operatic ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’, the effortlessly dreamy ‘Miracle Aligner’, and the wittily poetic ‘The Dream Synopsis’ all add distinct colour to an album awash with plucky melodies and defined by strong, earnest songwriting. Indeed, on balance, there really is very little fault to be found with Everything You’ve Come To Expect. It’s just a pity it sounds so much like an Arctic Monkeys record.