LAST SHADOW PUPPETS – The Age Of The Understatement (Domino)

I like The Arctic Monkeys, but I would not say that I am mad about them, so a solo album by Alex Turner was not high on my list of priority purchases. However, it only took one hearing of their first single and title track to change my mind. Apart from the familiarity of Turner’s voice this is nothing like the Monkeys’ output, harking much further back to artists like Scott Walker at his peak in the late 60’s. The galloping rhythm and lush orchestration make this an ideal choice to introduce the band to the masses, and if I am anything to go by then it worked. ‘Standing Next To Me’ and ‘Calm Like You’ are a couple more of their three minute pop ditties (as are most of the songs on this album – nothing outstays its welcome), with the music sounding retro and modern at the same time. ‘Separate And Ever Deadly’ is a horse of another colour, however, being the most Arctic sounding song so far. The strings come out in force for the balladry of ‘The Chamber’, and ‘Only The Truth’ has some delightfully 60’s fuzz guitar and the orchestra on acid. ‘My Mistakes Were Made For You’ and ‘I Don’t Like You Anymore’ are another couple of their lyrically savage ballads, hidden behind the catchiest of tunes. It seems that unrequited love is a theme which runs through the album, on tracks like ‘Black Plant’ (‘Got paper-cuts from the love letters you never gave him’) and ‘The Chamber’ (‘It’s torture locked inside the chamber’), and yet the music is strangely uplifting, making it somewhat at odds with the ideas that Turner and Kane are trying to put across. Yet in its own weird way it all works perfectly, and a song like ‘The Meeting Place’ is catchy, hummable, reeking with nostalgia, and still a product of now. ‘Time Has Come Again’ is a fitting closer to this all too short album (just over half an hour and it is gone), a goodbye to a lost love, and nicely winding things down with a reflective ballad. I will be the first to admit that I shouldn’t have prejudged this album, and am glad that I gave it a try as it has turned out to be something of an unexpected pleasure.