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Review: The Last Shadow Puppets

Ben Patey finds out if this highlight of the weekend's BBC Electric Proms could pull it off in the Phil

Published on October 27th 2008.


Review: The Last Shadow Puppets

DRESSED immaculately in dark grey suits and donning mop top hair cuts, it wouldn't have been too much to suggest The Last Shadow Puppets could have stepped straight out of magical red phone box from 40 years previous.

Walking out rather sheepishly to the backdrop of the BBC concert orchestra, Arctic Monkey Alex Turner and The Rascals' Miles Kane appear reserved, but when it comes to making a racket, they're anything but.

And that's fortunate because even with a 16-piece ensemble and some fantastic acoustics lending you a helping hand, big production songs straight from the studio can still sound rather vacant when it comes to playing them live.

As soon as the Last Shadow Puppets launched into In My Room, it was clear this wasn't going to be an issue. The sound-waves ricocheted off the walls of the Philharmonic Hall in the same way a Phil Spector record would do in a really small car. The reverberation threatening to drown out the vocals, the pop chamber symphony, the rumbling noises created by Kane working the tremolo arm and effects pedals... It was all there. The Wall of Sound that Spector pioneered those years before, pounded the audience mercilessly across the face.

Other artists contributing towards The Shadow Puppet's aesthetic template include Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach. There are certainly elements of Love's Forever Changes too. Italian composer Ennio Morricone – most famous for his spaghetti western themes – is also prominent in their sound. Morricone was also sampled on Turner's last Arctic Monkeys album on which Kane played guitar.

The lads were joined on the sticks by James Ford, producer of their Mercury-prize-nominated album, The Age of The Understatement – as well as the last Arctic's album.

Given that the album only lasts a modest 35 minutes, Turner and Kane padded out their set with a few choice covers. These included Bowie's In The Heat Of The Morning and a solid version of The Beatles I Want You (She's So Heavy).

Not all the covers worked. Nancy Sinatra's Paris Summer didn't really call for the vast contrast in Kane's and guest vocalist Rosalie Cunningham's voices. They would have been better off doing their fantastic version of Billy Fury's Wondrous Place which they played at Glastonbury with Jack White of The White Stripes.

Although there are fillers on the album, or, rather, tracks that people may not recognise as structured songs with a verse, chorus and middle eight, there are still some excellent singles on Age of the Understatement - My Mistakes Were Made For You, Only The Truth and Standing Next To You which they ended the show with. (see below)

While Turner's Arctic Monkeys are currently the most successful band in England after Oasis, The Rascals are relatively unknown. On these grounds it's easy to give Turner all the credit for all that's good about The Last Shadows.

But Kane, from Hoylake, is clearly a talented songwriter in his own right and his crooning was every bit as impressive as Turner's - especially on their cover of Leonard Cohen's Memories in which he was visibly reveling in the rapture of his home crowd. Kane's guitar work also deserves special acclaim. After seeing The Rascals at Glastonbury and hearing his work on The Age of the Understatement it's obvious that Kane is impelling Turner every bit as much as the other way round.

The psychedelic folk-rock with strings may have been done before. It may not be completely original (what is?). It may not be as pleasing on the ears as some derivative chart garbage.

But in a musical world full of copycats, it's The Last Shadow Puppets pulling all the strings.

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Joe ladOctober 27th 2008.

Think that hits the nail on the head Ben. I thought Calm Like You was a highlight too, as was Miles' bow-legged bop throughout the songs.

winstonOctober 27th 2008.

what does 'impelling' mean?

albert dockOctober 27th 2008.

watched a bit on the box and it was DULL! linkage to scott walker is hysterical. the great man being completely misunderstood by these george harrisonabees! expected to see the rediculous gallagher appear from the side!

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