In the music video for "Aviation," the first song on their new album as the Last Shadow Puppets, Alex Turner and Miles Kane play two men forced to dig what look like their own graves by a suave but sadistic crime-boss type.
There's a woman too, weeping in the back seat of a vintage Rolls-Royce, and we seem meant to understand that she's been caught carrying on with one of these guys; now her wicked husband is punishing the whole lot. Whatever the specifics, Turner and Kane — both Jason Statham-soulful in their grimy undershirts — are clearly identified as the noble victims in this little drama.
Yet that's rarely what they look like on "Everything You've Come to Expect," the second full-length from this British orchestral-pop duo. Due Friday, the album comes nearly a decade after the Last Shadow Puppets' swooning 2008 debut, "The Age of the Understatement." In that time, Turner became a global rock star with his primary band, the Arctic Monkeys, while Kane made a pair of solo records following the dissolution of an earlier group, the Rascals.
Now the two live in Los Angeles, which appears to have brought out each man's inner villain: In song after song, Turner describes the debasement of various characters, often women, with a kind of louche satisfaction, as though he were singing from inside a Guy Ritchie film.
"I'm a phony, I'm a fake, a fraud, a snake," the singer boasts over the creeping groove of "Used to Be My Girl," "Gimme all your love so I can fill you up with hate." Other tunes refer to a "hotel-room free-love revival" and a woman "with trouble written in dirt on her knees."
Rocker-dude business as usual? Perhaps. But where someone like Axl Rose — to name one proudly womanizing Angeleno — would've given these ideas a heroic sweep, the Last Shadow Puppets make the music feel clammy, almost disgusted with itself. On "The Age of the Understatement," lush horn-and-string arrangements by Owen Pallett provided a sense of old-Hollywood romance; this time the Oscar-nominated composer (who's also worked with Arcade Fire and Pet Shop Boys) uses screeching violins to summon darker horror-movie vibes.
It's anyone's guess if Turner and Kane are indeed playing a role here — whether they're merely exploring an unsavory viewpoint as they did a more sympathetic one in the "Aviation" video. A recent piece in Spin magazine, by a writer who says Kane came at her creepily in an interview, suggests something else. Either way, the complicated result plainly contradicts its title: For a rock-star victory lap, "Everything You've Come to Expect" is anything but.
The Last Shadow Puppets
"Everything You've Come to Expect"