We’ve all been there before. You only go for a quick drink to catch up with your best friend. It’s mid-week, so you’ve got places to go and stuff to do in the morning. It can’t possibly be a late one. But then one drink turns into five and before you know it you’re lost in the heart of the city, holding court in some dingy backstreet bar you’d usually never visit when sober.
While there, you constantly profess to anybody who will listen how you’re going to chuck a sickie tomorrow, while in between bouts of endless tequila shots you get up to sing about a cactus in French. For Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys and solo artist Miles Kane, they’ve just dialled this up a few notches by recording the morning after for their new live EP entitled The Dream Synopsis.
The rich orchestral arrangements and tales of love set within a sprawling metropolitan city that never slept made the duo’s debut album, The Age Of The Understatement, an instant hit when it was released in 2008. For Kane, The Last Shadow Puppets were his first real taste of success, while Turner was right in the eye of the perfect storm as Arctic Monkeys continued to rise to greater and greater heights.
A clamouring for a sophomore effort followed them everywhere for years, as fans and journalists all wanted to know when, or if, it would happen. The eight years in between left many to believe the time had passed and schedules were just not able to be synchronised. But on April 1st this year, Everything You’ve Come To Expect was released.
What followed was an extensive tour which saw the duo recruit two thirds of Mini Mansions, along with drummer Loren Humphry and a string quartet, to take their 1960s inspired music around the world. Whereas Turner often seemed rigid in his guise as main man for Arctic Monkeys, with the Puppets he seemed to actively revel in the looser style of the concerts. Gone were the tight structures and preconceived stage chatter, and in its place was a reckless abandon where cover songs were thrown in, frequent opportunistic guest spots were added, set lists were constantly changed and flipped, while the whole thing had a sense of debauched fun to it.
That’s translated here on the live EP that the band have recorded as a goodbye gift for the time being. Presumably budget restraints have meant that favourites like the late great David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream, which they performed at Glastonbury, hasn’t made the cut. And neither too has their Beatles cover I Want You (She’s So Heavy). But reworked songs of Leonard Cohen and The Fall still makes this compelling listening.
On the former Turner takes the lead, while Kane brings his usual visceral energy to the latter on the reverb-drenched Totally Wired. Cohen’s recent passing has only enhanced the interest in his work, as is the usual response, but the lyrics on his 1974 track Is This What You Wanted truly are flawless. “You defied your solitude, I came through alone, You said that you could never love me, I undid your gown,” Turner croons theatrically with added emphasis on the final couple of syllables.
The duo’s push and pull dynamics are best evidenced in the opening track Aviation, which sees Turner ably backing Kane as he takes the listener through the depths of the night where “glum looking beauties” lurk at every turn. The live setting bringing new life to the epic string arrangements that frequent collaborator Owen Pallet has brought to proceedings.
If the Jacques Detrounc cover Les Cactus is a raw, chaotic excursion into 1960s nostalgia, The Dream Synopsis is the antithesis of this. The most delicate song from their second album, barring bonus track The Bourne Identity, initially it seemed like an odd choice for the full live treatment. But it is here where Turner is able to fully showcase his honey-soaked vocals as the song is slowed down completely.
The lively studio talk in between captures a band at the height of enjoyment as they flick from a few originals to recording some of their favourite covers from the years gone by. And the choices are thoroughly eclectic as they swing from Glaxo Babies to Cohen to Dutronc. The year spent on the road has clearly enhanced the group’s connection with one another, and a live EP perfectly showcases this fact to full effect.
In the end it’s a short, quick bit of fun to remind you, in case you’d forgotten, of how good the night before actually was. Now, each member will return to their usual band and will go back to their day jobs. But don’t doubt it; the next time they meet for a catch up drink it will end up turning out just like this time. It’s inevitable.
Read our review of Everything You’ve Come To Expect here.
Image: The Last Shadow Puppets