As the lights dim in the theater and the curtain starts to draw back, the orchestra begins to hum. The hum of the orchestra is brimming with anxious anticipation. Seated in the audience you can feel your muscles begin to tense. The only sure thing you know is that whatever happens next, it will be epic. Those are the feelings evoked when pressing play for the second time through the band's debut album. It's a grand-scale production for a cast of two (backed by big money and plenty of friends/connections in the industry). Such is the scene for The Last Shadow Puppets.
It's similar to the feeling you get when you see classic movies with famous, pivotal moments for the first time. The scenes you've only heard/read about in film school. Like hearing the Ennio Morricone soundtrack while watching The Good, The Bad & The Ugly for the first time. You get chills because of the history and stamp it has put on our society. Much like every new band that comes out nowadays, there are certain touchstones you can expect be held as an influence. Whether it's a more proggy, Yes-sound, or a back to your blue collar Bruce Springstien-esque roots your shooting for, it's generally more a question of which genre combinations a band uses and how successful they sound together. For this duo (who I suppose I should mention are Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys and Alex Kane from the Rascals) the first layer is 60's British-Invasion pop rock. Going through the album you can hear the songwriting and singing style of Ray Davies (Kinks) and Rod Argent (Zombies) layered on top of early British garage rock (the Pretty Things). While those two styles are certainly complimentary (if not one in the same) throw on top of it the London Metropolitan Orchestra (conducted by Final Fantasy's Owen Pallett) and production duties by half of Simian Mobile Disco (James Ford). How's that for too many cooks? Sounds like it could be disastrous, but when you hear it you can't help but see all the intricate parts fitting together to form a beautiful but dark take on an image of love.
Title track, "The Age Of The Understatement" begins with a quick, THX like escalation of sound for the stringed instruments, quickly jumped on by a rolling drumbeat and the twang of 1960's spy guitar sounds. Soon the horns kick in after the deep chorus of "Uh-Oh-Oh's" grow to crescendo... and it doesn't stop there. Second single, "Standing Next To Me" is dual-guitars (one acoustic, one electric) competing for attention, but ultimately complimenting each other perfectly under more up-tempo drums, strings and impeccable harmonies. Each step on this twelve-song album uncovers a beauty deeper (and at times, darker) than the step before.
This album plays out like a trip to the cinema in 1962. It's a spectacle of sound and emotion all centering around girls, or perhaps a single girl or the feelings you have toward one or more girls. Remember: these two gentlemen are 22 years of age, but even the focus on girls in the songwriting doesn't take anything away from the beautiful guitar strums and orchestral undercurrents. It's a modern day take on the sexually charged songwriting Serge Gainsbourg made in the 60's. These two fellows are a little more introverted (compared to Mr. Gainsbourg, Jenna Jameson is a little more introverted) but they pull it off perfectly, painting images of love, loss and uber-cool desperation.
If you're a fan of good cinema, British garage rock and emotionally driven (but far from 'emo') pop rock music let me introduce you to The Last Shadow Puppets.
"The Age of the Understatement"