The Last Shadow Puppets: The Dream Synopsis EP
It took Alex Turner and Miles Kane a respectable eight years to release a follow-up album to their 2008 debut The Age of the Understatement. While they were both writing music for their other projects during those years, the break seems to have left the pair with an overflow of musical ideas and inspiration. So now, a mere eight months after their previous record came out, the band have released The Dream Synopsis EP.
Recorded live in just one day at Future-Past Studios, the EP features new versions of 'Aviation' and 'The Dream Synopsis' off Everything You've Come to Expect, in addition to four cover songs. The covers don't come as complete surprises, as The Last Shadow Puppets showcased a large variety, from Bowie and The Beatles to The Smiths, on their tour this summer; one of the high points of their Primavera set was their cover of Leonard Cohen's seductive 'Is This What You Wanted'. On The Dream Synopsis, too, it gets an alluring rendition, as the band aim to do justice to several iconic musicians.
On Everything You've Come to Expect, opening track 'Aviation' revealed Kane at his best. The decision to start the EP with the same track, without any major alterations, is bold, but also emphasises the EP's role as a direct continuation of the album. While the EP version doesn't differ from the original that much, the richer live recording does more justice to the ominous and urgent tone of Kane's voice.
But while the album opener is by no means a leap from their previous record, the following tracks take it in a whole new direction. The absurdity of Jacques Dutronc's 'Les Cactus', amplified by Alex Turner's less-than-perfect French, is entertaining and appropriate. For a track that appears so drug-fuelled and surreal, the Shadow Puppets manage to make it sound surprisingly sharp, while still retaining the fun and quirky elements of the song. The same passion comes through in The Fall cover 'Totally Wired' where Kane seems to be perfectly in his element. It is this hyperactive, happy and impulsive Kane that has always seemed to bring out a more playful and assertive Turner, too. While in Arctic Monkeys this was only ever visible in lyrical quips and wit, his emergence as a bold performer has helped the Turner-Kane collaboration reach unprecedented levels of youthful experimentation.
It is these qualities that have made not only songs like 'Les Cactus' possible, but also the cover of Leonard Cohen's 'Is This What You Wanted'. Turner's confidence, ever-deepening vocals and Owen Pallett's string arrangements all create something that complements the classic melody and makes it even more powerful. The song was released shortly before Cohen's death and is a beautiful and impactful homage to Cohen and his songwriting genius.
If every album has one forgettable song, on The Dream Synopsis it's the cover of Glaxo Babies' 'This Is Your Life'. However, it is actually by far the most haunting track the Shadow Puppets have ever released. The combination of Kane's vocals and instrumentation reminiscent of horror films amounts to what can only be described as a brilliant arrangement. However, it seems to only find its full potential with the hilariously dramatic music video directed by Focus Creeps.
The final song, a live recording of their own song 'The Dream Synopsis', is more self-indulgent than the previous tracks. There was always (undoubtedly fully intentional) irony about Alex Turner singing ”Isn't it boring when I talk about my dreams?”. To now get all of their fans to listen to a different version of these same dreams seems almost like a joke, but it's also a simple display of the band's self-deprecating arrogance: Turner knows full well that millions of people across the world would love to wake up to his dream report. And ultimately, giving a glimpse of the band's collective dreams, from the absurd to the emotional, is precisely what The Last Shadow Puppets have done with this EP.