The Last Shadow Puppets – Dream Synopsis EP

by Chris Allen

Enigmatic supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets – after having made fans wait eight years between albums – have swiftly followed Everything You’ve Come To Expect with an extended play, a collection of covers bookended by two alternative versions of tracks from their latest album. The Dream Synopsis is less of an EP and more like a list of recommended listening – luckily, university students, this time I’ve done the secondary research for you.

The EP lifts off with a delicate flowing version of TLSP’s previous single Aviation: comparatively, the guitar is bouncier, the strings silky yet piercing, and the bass surprisingly solid and funky. Next, Turner offers a vibrant, punchy and stylistically-faithful rendition of Jacques DuTronc’s blues-y classic. This version is a barrage of shiny organ tones, terse rolling snares and suave James-Brown-esque string twiddles, rendered very slightly surreal by Turner stretching his Sheffield accent over the French like a hatstand trying to wear a morphsuit.

The tone then jumps to the droning post-punk of Totally Wired: a fairly adhesive cover with the addition of jittery vocals and spiralling echoes, as well as a creepy section containing metronomic drums and string squeaks, as if The Strokes wrote music for the psychedelic tunnel scene in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This eerie mood segues nicely into the following track’s tinkling piano intro which immediately sparks upbeat drums and e-piano; the latter’s intermittent bleeps soften the tone, creating a deliberate discord with Kane’s erratic vocals and fuzzy guitar whorls. But by inserting strings and mellow piano, This Is Your Life falls short of the scant, cold, ominous tone of Glaxo Babies’ original – the luscious production jars with the song’s hollow themes and renders it ostentatious instead of menacing.

In contrast, the cheeky lifts and falls of the strings (replacing woodwind and brass) in Is This What You Wanted reflect Cohen’s irreverent lyrics; a luxurious and full instrumental has been added to the outro, replete with wavering staccato string scrubbing. The classic jazzy drums and ringing, jangling chords complement Turner’s newfound crooner style, although calling “get down” in the outro is a little too smug for someone who’s not actually Leonard Cohen. The re-imagining of The Dream Synopsis is a treasure, however. The combination of soft percussion, e-piano, and wavering saxophone melodies becomes raunchy and personal – in comparison, the album version seems to plod, despite its faster tempo. Sweeping strings evoke the movement of tides, in a sly link to Turner’s journal of suspiciously damp dreams; neat flourishes like this accumulate a tonal blend of cheekiness – supplied by the duo’s mischievous attitude – and class, provided by the baroque instrumentation.

The Last Shadow Puppets’ musical scope is huge, from antiquated French blues-rock to driving post-punk to tongue-in-cheek ballads. Whether they appropriate too much is open to discussion, but I can’t overlook that very little is new here: not the content, nor the edgy persona adopted by both (frankly interchangeable) vocalists. Every song is washed in reverb; the dialogue before and after various songs couldn’t reference The Beatles circa Let It Be more blatantly (case in point: “how was that Yoko?”); and the eerie qualities of otherwise stately and comforting string sections have already been explored on both TLSP albums. Remarkably smooth production and a handful of diverse influences have simply been added to the standard Shadow Puppets formula – which, by now, is everything you’ve come to expect.