Throwback Thursday: The Last Shadow Puppets 'The Age of the Understatement'

Tending to the news that The Last Shadow Puppets have finished working on their second album, we've revisted their dazzling debut 'The Age Of The Understatement'.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 1st Dec 2015

Image: The Last Shadow Puppets 

Round about the time of Favourite Worst Nightmare, it was already apparent that the Arctic Monkeys were massive, titan-like indie rockers paving the way for British rock music to cavort over four Steel City lads and nothing was going to stop them. 

The then shaggy-haired Alex Turner was at the forefront of their explosion, and seemingly not content with world domination, he pulled in Miles Kane from The Rascals and veered off on a sixties sprung side-project that would become known as The Last Shadow Puppets

With that godly formation came The Age Of Understatement: a record produced by Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford with Arcade Fire's Owen Pallet plonked on strings and we've heard nothing ever since.

Well not until around two months ago when Pallet slipped a tweet stating "That rare and thrilling moment when the record you're working on crosses the threshold into Classic Status #tlsp2". 

Now we're pretty certain that after Ford told a Chilean publication this week: "I’ve just done a Last Shadow Puppets record, which is the guy from Arctic Monkeys and Miles (just in case you hadn't gathered)" then we must be on the verge of album number two, and if not, well what we've covered so far is entirely pointless, sort of.

Despite the slithering chance that this rosy cheeked situation could occur, the seductive beauty of their debut still remains, and it's a sleazy seductive beauty that is well worth revisiting.

It was an album touted as a homage to Scott Walker and you wouldn't be far wrong, the albums orchestral arrangements wash like an age old whiskey against cantering percussion and guitar parts to recall the sixties swagger of Walker's work.

On the surface it was nothing like The Arctic's were producing at the time. Alex was plugging the punk rock induced tales of the lairy Sheffield youth, while Miles Kane had just emerged from sixties tinged The Little Flames - with whom he met Turner on tour - and had just formed The Rascals.

Delving deeper however, both evidently had a penchant for such a project. Turner's early cover of 'Baby I'm Yours' shed the first glimmer of light, before Kane appeared on guitar at the end of Favourite Worst Nightmare for the swooning '505'.

It later appeared that Turner sampled Ennio Morricone on the song, a classical Italian composer who's turned out tracks on films scaling The Good, the Bad and the Ugly to Django Unchained.

Alex has mentioned in interviews that he held back with being open about his song-writing in school, and who knows, maybe Ennio's films were chugging away in Turner's earphones on a Friday night while he was getting chases from the men with truncheons dressed in hats.

When the pair inevitably combined, they delivered an album that could quite easily have burned out with failed ambition. However the particular sphere in which they operating had tailed off somewhat.

There was no signs of new material from bands like The Strokes, Klaxons and The Libertines. The Arctics themselves, Arcade Fire, The View and Bloc Party were still feeding off albums released the year previous, meaning The Age of the Understatement could rocket straight to number one in their competitive absence.

With the space to indulge in pastures new, Turner and Kane combined on the records for velvety harmonies and vocal interchanges through which you couldn't tell each of them apart.

The guitars fired rapidly for the majority; Ford smashed out brisk and punky drum rhythms, Pallet was imperious as ever on strings and the 22 piece orchestra brought symphonies and brass textures that propped the album into grandiose Bond territory.  

The frantic tapestries heard in songs like album track 'Age Of Understatement' - with its marauding bass line and throbbing percussion that cut splendidly with the spangled guitar chords and sweeping violins - meant the album could be wound for more than one cycle because it was so swift on the ear. 

Off-set with more down tempo moments like the sweeping strings of 'The Chamber' and the lusty 'My Mistakes Were Made For You', the album also harked the enveloping smokiness of '505' which chiselled it an extra edge.  

What struck most however was the song-writing on the album, Alex sways from his witty turns of phrase and together with Miles they penned more explicit and unequivocal tales between subject and lover.

Lyrics profiling seemingly luxurious women - "endearingly bedraggled in the wind" - speaks on the same wave of 'Arabella' in hindsight; the chorus to 'The Meeting Place' turns into a cinematic romance with the hook "I'm sorry I met you darling/Im sorry I left you", and 'Separate And Ever Deadly' paints a tale of lost love that turns nasty with a pair of secateurs. 

At this very point in time we're more than acquainted with the band's capabilities and Turner's lothario presence.

That said it makes for intriguing thought about where they'll head with the supposed second album. A starting point could easily have been to start with The Bond tune, to dispose of that god awful Sam Smith effort that's been rinsed profusely by Radio 1.

Whatever this new dawn brings it's assured that with the original line up on board, we can be expectant of something as equally dazzling and profound.

Owen Pallet arguably formed the nucleus to the debut with his glorious string arrangements. Merging that with the chemistry of Turner and Kane and Ford on production duties they have an uphill task, but t's one they are more than capable of to match the heights of The Age Of The Understatement.

Read: The Last Shadow Puppets new album is finished and ready for 2016