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The Age Of The Understatement is the debut album from The Last Shadow Puppets; a side project of Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of The Rascals...one you may well have heard of, but one you may not have!!
The Age of the Understatement was released in the UK on 21 April 2008, going straight to number one in the UK Albums Chart...the hype and success surrounding it was for the most part due to Turner's role in the band. The likes of Radio 1 put the debut single straight into it's A-list, the likes of the NME waxed lyrically over their arrival...but was it worth the hype??
Well first of all, the two met when Kane's former band The Little Flames supported the Arctic Monkeys during their 2005 & 2007 UK tours. Kane also played guitar on "505", the closing track of the second Arctic Monkeys album "Favourite Worst Nightmare" so their friendship and musical relationship was already set-up before they stepped foot in the studio.
The Age of the Understatement consists of 12 tracks written by the two of them...on the surface you'd assume it would just sound like the Arctic Monkey's 'third album' due to Turner's rather unique sound and lyrically prowess. But to isolate it from anything the Arctic Monkeys had done previously, they brought in the London Metropolitan Orchestra for the recording to add a new style to the music. An interesting twist on a modern classic you could say...
Opening track is the debut single and self-titled track of the album. It bursts into life with violins and guitars with an uncanny similarity to "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse. It's an encouraging start to proceedings with a fast-paced, unique style that obviously does have audible likeness to the Arctic Monkeys, whilst at the same time being completely different. It managed to break the top ten of the UK singles chart as well due to the airplay it was given.
Next up, "Standing Next To Me" sees Miles Kane take centre stage with him on main vocals and an acoustic guitar...and the London Metropolitan Orchestra of course! In my opinion this track stands out from the rest as it is different. The acoustic guitar is unique when compared to the rest of the album but it still maintains an upbeat feel. There's an element of the 1950's swing movement included in there somewhere, due to the inclusion of the Orchestra. This is something that becomes more apparent as the album progresses...
"Calm Like You" is another favourite it of mine. The use of brass instruments behind Turner's vocals works well to give it extra emphasis. Gentle guitar riffs between verses and choruses help the quiet/loud juxtaposition work successfully.
As things go on, it's clear these 12 tracks are just 3-minute pop-rock songs that have a uniqueness to them due to the orchestra. Sure, the Last Shadow Puppets aren't the first band to ever use an orchestra in a record and they probably won't be the last...but for a follower of either band, could they really have expected to see these two men work so well with a brass and string band playing the rhythm? I doubt it.
The criticism comes as you get further into the album. Maybe it's because I enjoy fast-paced music in this genre. The Arctic Monkey's are, in my opinion, one of the best bands of the last decade quite comfortably. This side project does appear different to a number of people's attempts at side project's so could well stand the test of time...but unfortunately by about track 8 I've begun to lost interest. There's an element of me thinking every track sounds the same due to the orchestral arrangement and there's another part of me thinking that there's just something missing...a certain 'wow' factor that the Arctic Monkeys can provide.
Don't get me wrong, it sounds absolutely fine and is a recommendation for any fan of Turner or Kane's previous work...just don't go into it with your blinkers on - it is quite different to their previous work. It's currently available on Amazon for £6.98...dare I suggest it may drop by a couple more pounds in the next few months though...
Kane has been quoted in the Sun as saying they will write new material in 2009. It's a nice idea and I've got nothing against that, but if you were to push me, I'd say stick to your day job, or band if you will...rather than earn a cheap buck here.
Last Shadow Puppets is the side project of Alex Turner (of Arctic Monkeys fame) and Miles Kane (of The Rascals). With an overtly 60's feel, "Age Of The Understatement" is the debut album from the collaboration, and has had relative commercial success.
However, commercial success does not make for a good album, as this album proves. Riding on the back of the Arctic Monkey's fame, it never really achieves its full potential, although the title track is as close as it gets to an epic.
(I would like to just point out that I am a massive fan of the Arctic Monkeys and The Rascals, so at times my view may be contorted by my love of the two bands.)
"Age Of The Understatement", as a track, sounds as if the Arctic Monkeys have been experimenting with orchestral sounds. It neither achieves the fantastic sound of the Monkey's singles, but nor does it fail miserably. The song, along with its fellow single "Standing Next To Me" both sound so unforgivingly 60's that they're almost like a guilty pleasure, and actually work well in an unusual way due to their obscurity.
The powerful psychedelic sound continues into the album-only tracks, such as "Calm Like You", which is a slower song, where the orchestral backing music plays less of an important role. The song sounds similar to many of The Rascal's songs, and is successful in its own right.
However, whilst this formula may work well for the singles and a few songs after, it soon tires as you reach the middle section of the album. It relies on the same style as the early songs, and whilst it has some success in these songs, almost all of its charisma and uniqueness is lost by the time the album reaches "The Chamber", a slower number which is devoid of personality and sounds as if they wrote it in about 10 minutes. It is also one of the tracks that shows the incompatibility of the two vocalists the best - whilst both Kane and Turner have fantastic vocals alone, together their voices can grate a bit due to the subtle differences between their accents (from Liverpool and Sheffield respectively), it at times sounds like an off combination.
The album loses it until towards the end of the album, when it is rescued by the song "In My Room", a number which neither relies on the 60's vibe, nor replicates an Arctic Monkeys or Rascals track. It, along with the single "Standing Next To Me" are the only songs which actually sound like they are by a band with a specific, original sound, and I think that they are signs that the Last Shadow Puppets could actually have a lot of potential, if they would only rely on their own style as opposed to their other bands.
The final three songs rescue the album, with "Meeting Place" once again building on the Last Shadow Puppets sounds brilliantly, and "The Time Has Come, Once Again" really showing how much potential this group of artists has.
The Last Shadow Puppets are a young band with more skill than you can shake a stick at, but the success of this album is limited due to its inability to develop its own style, instead to-ing and fro-ing over the traditional sounds of the duet's old bands, and a very 60's style sound.
In the end, however, the band seem to find their way, and, given that the album is going for £7 on amazon, and is only 34 minutes long, and there are 7 good songs worth a listen on the 12 track album. I would say that this isn't necessarily the album that a typical Arctic Monkeys fan would like (you'd be much better off getting The Rascal's debut, "Rascalize"), it does have some appeal for those into a retro-style, Beatles-esque style of music.
The Last Shadow Puppets is a 3 piece indie rock band fronted by Arctic Monkeys lead singer, Alex Turner. His sideline group is made up by James Ford on Drums and Miles Kane on Bass if i remember rightly. Both of these musicians met Alex Turner when Miles Kane's other band, 'The Rascals' supported the Arctic Monkeys.
The album is called 'The Age of The Understatement' and consists of 12 Tracks and runs to almost 35 minutes. Fans of either band will have to be open-minded as The Last Shadow Puppets do seem to be a little more downbeat than Arctic Monkeys and more contemporary and conventional than The Rascals.
=== The Tracks ===
[Track 1 - The Age of The Understatement]
The album screeches into an early crescendo with its title track, also a prominent yet simple bassline present early on. It may lead some Arctic Monkeys fans into comparisons as this track is fairly reminiscent in some ways. When the track picks up, a chorus of tuneful wails back up Alex Turner's lyrics, which incidently, are reminiscent of those which are loved by so many of his fans. A decent track, the first single by the band. It reached Number 9 in the charts if i'm not mistaken. It isn't exactly amazing, it definitely seems different to the Arctic Monkeys, yet whilst it is still a good song, I'm not completely convinced... and I'm not sure why. '''7/10'''
[Track 2 - Standing Next To Me]
This is to be the band's next single, released soon if not now and it is along a different vein to the first song on the album. It's much more restrained that the first track and there are violins and/or synthesisers in the background. Much less rocky and punkish than the first song, the harmonies are everpresent and although this might disappoint some of the listeners, I quite like this song. '''8/10'''
[Track 3 - Calm Like You]
The drums and a brass accompaniment build up the early part of the track and then AT's vocals come in, slower than in the previous tracks but bolder in some way. In my mind, the song is somewhat reminiscent of a Shirley Bassey song or something like that, a strange comparison considering, but I hope you see why I say it when you listen yourself. The crescendo of the classical backing behind the band in this one gives a certain grace akthough I'm not quite sure if I could put it into a familiar genre. '''6.5/10'''
[Track 4 - Seperate And Ever Deadly]
The first song I have latched onto on the album. Early on it has a fairly murky aura about itself but again, the Monkey-like style of the track shows through in the chorus. The chorus itself is decent and there is a little gap after it which at first made me think the song was over. The drums beat through a subtle, grinding guitar riff and although I don't understand what the lyrics are trying to say at the moment, I still like them. Best so far. '''8.5/10'''
[Track 5 - The Chamber]
A few twinkling moments of calm at the start of this tune after the last track's exertions, the violin in the background gives the track an overall feeling of calm which is only punctuated by quick blasts on the drums and the melodic lyrics until it drifts into a sort of sci-fi calm, and fades out for the last forty seconds with no drums or vocals, but don't drift off just yet... '''5.5/10''' (the score is a bit higher if your listening to it while you fall asleep)
[Track 6 - Only The Truth]
The last track lulls you into a false sense of security here with its half-minute of peace. This track jumps in with two feet allinstruments and brass which soon pick up into a racing bass a drumbeat with backing instruments supporting the harking of the track title. Very dramatic, but not exactly what I'd listen to all the time. The track threatens to calm down with aminute to go, and seems like its decided to put an 70's funk TV show soundtrack at the end, it doesn't really change until the end. I'm not sure how to sum this track up. '''5/10'''
[Track 7 - My Mistakes Were Made For You]
This track is quite chilled and seems like it would feel at home as the themetune of one of the older James Bond films. In a way, its a little calmer than you'd expect but as its so rhythmic and well-executed that I can't help but tap along to it. Its quite low-tempo throughout and I still can't shake this James Bond feeling I've got going on. Although it's fairly low tempo I'm on board with this song, a pleasant track indeed Moneypenny. '''7.5/10'''
[Track 8 - Black Plant]
The longest track on the album, it appears to be another drifting track here but these basslines brings the speed up but the track is still quite low key and holds back a bit except for the occasional moments when the volume jumps for a second or two. The Arctic Monkeys again can be linked to the way this track develops as the are some similar thumping basslines later on but it might just be Alex Turner's voice, I might be getting it wrong this time. See for yourself. [7/10]
[Track 9 - I Don't Like You Anymore]
The songs ambles in at its start but you can tell its just ready to jack out of the box. For the first time, I can see a punk element, as the track bounces through the gears soon although it does slow down again outside of the chorus. The title and chorus obviously state a less friendly intent in this track aswell as the quick signature 1-2-3-4 method of the punk drums, the first time the drummer is really allowed to have a proper turn really. I have a bit of a soft spot for punk music so I'm trying not to be biased with the rating, the track is definitely one of the better ones still. '''7.5/10'''
[Track 10 - The dramatic orchestral backup has returned to give the track an overblown underscoring. For me though, I'm not to keen on the way thetrack seems to be going. At times it's a bit sharper than most of the others and builds to quite an intense peak that doesn't really happen in the other songs on the album. '''4.5/10'''
[Track 11 - Meeting Place]
There is a tropical holiday vibe in the air here, that's what I'm feeling anyway, a chirpy acoustic guitar here and mellow violins again. (at least I think it's a violin??) This track is basically a love song, I think thats the best way to describe it, only wholesome dancing to be had this time. You won't be skanking, grinding or pogoing to this one but its late in the album so I'll forgive it for winding down. '''6.5/10'''
[Track 12 - The Time Has Come Again]
This track is again nice and blissful. It reminds of some of the slower songs on the Arctic Monkeys second album. This chilled little number is just right to lull you to sleep at the end of the album if nothing else. Not what you'd listen to all the time, but definitely easy listening. It's on the night-time playlist. '''6.5/10'''
After a quick look, this album appears to be available from all of HMV, Play and Amazon for about £6.99. Althoug there are cheaper copies on eBay as per usual. The album cover is along the same lines of previous Arctic Monkey's releases and features a pretty, forlorn young girl sat alone on the floor with an grey and off-white backdrop. Only accompanied by the mis-sized print of the album name in red, and the name of the band in printed in black.
Overall, the album is good when you consider it as a whole. Some of the tracks are quite downbeat and not really made for the same setting or environment as the Arctic Monkey's music is. The songs on here are not what I was expecting but it's clear the band members want to reflect other sides of their own music taste in this album. Half the tracks are rocky and lively and very friendly to being played live, whilst the other half are quite sensible and tranquil. The chilled tracks are great to fall asleep to or just as relaxing, easy listening. The others sort of disturb the peace to an extent. What I'm trying to say is that the tracks on this album fall into two camps, and in some way this disrupts tempo of the album as a whole and it definitely ends up in a comletely different place to where it started. It depends on what your looking for I suppose, but I would still recommend you give this album a go.
Wow, I just realised this is my first review in over 6 months, hopefully I haven't forgotten how to write.
The Last Shadow Puppets are what you could refer to as a sideline/spinoff band. They are effectively a duo made up of Alex Turner from the brilliant Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of The Rascals (plus a small orchestra). They've known each other for a while now and have previously worked and toured together with their respective bands.
Their debut album is called The Age of the Understatement and as side project albums go, it's ok. 12 tracks, 35 minutes, nothing over 4 minutes and 7 tracks which are under 3 minutes.
1 - The Age of the Understatement - 3.08. The album title track and debut single is the best song on the album. The video is set to a Russian backdrop and once you've seen it then it's hard to listen to the song without thinking of the video. I agree with the other review that has been written about this album, in that this definitely could be a Bond theme tune. Similar to Brianstorm (off the Monkey's last album) this song is a quite quick start to the album, or at least it feels like it. I really like it and will give it a 9/10.
2 - Standing Next to Me - 2.18. Alex's vocals carry on dominating the proceedings, and there's a continuation of the quick pace. It does sound like it could be the theme for a wild west film, something with a lot of horses in. Very short, nothing spectactualr but it's ok - 6/10.
3 - Calm like you - 2.26. Another short one and you'd be forgiven for thinking this is an Arctic Monkey's album at this point. (I've had to slow the album down as it's going faster than I can type). Another track similar to the last in that it's like a mini song. Given another minute and a half and this could be a really good song. It's almost like a taster - 7/10.
4 - Separate and Ever Deadly - 2.38. More really good writing from Turner and his vocals again shine through. It's almost like he had loads of really good ideas for the last Monkey's album but wasn't allowed to stick 30 tracks on the album, so he thought I know I'll make up another band. It's quite similar to the last two and again feels like a mini song - 6/10.
5 - The Chamber - 2.37. Starts like a slightly more upbeat version of 505 (off the last Monkey's album). Doesn't really go anywhere and dies after 1.50. Not sure whether this means anything but there's a pause at about 1.05, same as on the previous track... - 3/10
6 - Only the Truth - 2.44. Ok I'm bored now. This sounds similar in style to the opening track, possibly could be used in the same Bond film. - 4/10.
7 - My Mistakes were made for you - 3.05. Ok I'm optimistic again, I've rated this song well on Itunes when I first listened to it. Although after 1.40 it breaks into Bond Theme tune territory again. It is better though and the orchestra play their part - 6/10.
8 - I don't like you anymore - 3.05. A mixture of styles in this song with some slow and some much more energetic parts. Overall its another improvement - 7/10
9 - Black Plant - 4.00. Ooh a long song. This one gees itself along again, there's quite a lot of repeated lines in this which really isn't helping my spirit which is struggling slightly now, and i've started skipping bits of the songs... - 5/10
10 - In my room - 2.29. Excellent, a short song again. These are in general better than the longer ones, so much so that i'm now starting to like the mini song style. The whole way through this album you know theres a lot of instruments there and this carries that on. - 5/10
11 - Time has come again - 2.22. Ok, this review is starting to struggle now as this album is sending me to sleep. Luckily the tracks are short, problem is they aren't punchy - 5/10. That was actually a good track but it just feels like it should be part of a longer track, there's just not enough there on its own.
12 - The Meeting Place - 3.56. This is another album song. It's hard to find many singles on this album. I think that's the problem. Maybe if there were more single songs this would be a better album as they would rekindle the album, problem is there's nothing, instead there are just a lot of similar tracks.
In summary I hate to say it again but it is an ok album, it's nothing great but if you like the Arctic's and want something to listen to whilst chatting to mates at home or whilst writing a review then it's good. I didn't really like the 2nd Arctic's album when I first heard it though, so maybe this will grow on me too, I hope so.
I'll speak the truth and say that I am no Arctic Monkeys fan, in fact, I could care less about them. So, I was really taken aback when I fell in love with The Last Shadow Puppets, the new project of Arctic Monkey Alex Turner, and elative unknown Miles Kane of The Rascals.
It's impossible to say too many bad things about this album. To define the overall sound, you have to take the main body of the album, and then combine it with the lead single The Age of The Understatement. In doing that, you find an album that is over the top, with a little bit of spaghetti western styling, in a bubble of 60s Kitsch.
It's a firm album, really. Alex Turner's vocals compliment the backing from Miles. The guitars do wonders for the songs in their relative simplicity, especially in being combined with an orchestral backing throughout. It makes it sound like a plausible set of James Bond theme tracks, but without the overpowering divas. It harks back to an age of showmanship, and really does fit the world of cheesy spy flicks.
So, settle down with it and some fondue. It's really worth the buy.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Age Of The Understatement
2 Standing Next To Me
3 Calm Like You
4 Separate and Ever Deadly
5 The Chamber
6 Only The Truth
7 My Mistakes Were Made For You
8 Black Plant
9 I Don't Like You Any More
10 In My Room
11 Meeting Place
12 The Time Has Come Again