The latest outing from Alex Turner and his sidekick Miles Kane isn’t what I would have expected or wanted around the time Humbug and The Age of the Understatement were being released. Certainly not from Turner anyway. While The Age of Understatement was drenched in self-deprecating incisive brilliance, Turners music has progressively become more cringe inducingly tone deaf since the release of AM, an album that I consider to be the low point in his career.
Apologies to the Miles Kane fans if I seem to focusing somewhat on Alex, but judging by the two’s other output, basically everything good about The Last Shadow Puppets is due to the involvement of Turner. If anything, I tend to blame Kane for this rock star façade he’s adopted, and the absolutely awful music he’s produced as a result of it. So admittedly, I had fairly low expectations for this new project by the two of them.
However, having said that, I will admit to having been somewhat pleasantly surprised by the level of self-reflection and insecurity on display in some of these songs. I don’t know of anyone who wanted Alex Turner to become the exact vacuous rock star he mocked in Fake Tales of San Francisco, but it’s nice to see he’s dropped the lothario rock god image to an extent. On the title track, Turner sings in a melancholy tone, “I just can’t get the thought of you and him out of my head”, the kind of lyric that wouldn’t be out of place on Suck it and See if were slightly more articulate. “Element of Surprise” opens with the line, “There’s a set of rickety stairs, in between my heart and my head, and there ain’t much that ever bothers going up them”, lyrics that lend a level of nuance to the kind of self-assured superstar Alex portends to be. Miles manages to almost derail the album entirely with “Bad Habits” a song with almost know musical or lyrical merit that I can excavate from its rank corpse. It’s songs like this that make me wonder what Turner sees in Kane, and why he doesn’t just have a solo career writing more albums like Submarine, but I suppose we all have that one friend our mum makes us hang about with.
For every song that develops a level of depth to Turners clearly very interesting psyche, there are two that involve Miles Kane pretending that being friends with a rock star makes him one too, and singing about “little girls” and doing other weird creepy things he likes to do. It certainly isn’t a bad record, and it’s an improvement from AM in almost every respect. But Turner could do so much better alone.