So far this year there have been about 40 posts on the Crotchety Man blog. Of those only six have carried the 2010s tag and one of them was an appreciation of that great old campaigner Bob Dylan – not exactly up-to-the-minute news. I felt I was in a temporal rut. It was time to break out, to find something new, push the boundaries a little. That’s what artists do, isn’t it? And blogging is, after all, a form of art.
So I browsed Spotify’s New Releases playlist. In many cases I did not recognise either the artist name or the track title. There were, of course, a lot of hip-hop artists and dance tracks that I could skip over – those genres may be popular now but they have never been Crotchety Man’s cup of tea. Then there were some unnecessarily obnoxious titles, depressingly uninspiring thumbnail pictures and a worryingly over-promoted pretty girl band. I did find a new release by indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club but it turned out to be nothing special. I toyed with listening to offerings from Bastille or CHVCHES. But, in the end, using the most technologically advanced selection gadget known to man (the spinning beer bottle) I chose something by The Last Shadow Puppets.
TLSP, as they are known to the cognoscenti, is a baroque pop band formed by Alex Turner (of the Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane in 2007. That needs some qualification. There’s not much ‘baroque’ in the music of The Last Shadow Puppets. There’s a definite pop throwback feel to most of the tracks on their latest album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect (released April 2016), in which orchestral string and brass sections feature fairly prominently, but it’s a long way from Bach or Vivaldi. And there are a couple of rockier tracks on that album, too, notably the single, Bad Habits, which has had a lot of airplay on BBC 6 Music recently.
The production on some of the tracks on the recent album strikes me as rather corny – too many violins, the horns too subdued, an all too predictable prelude to an action scene in a James Bond movie. So for my Track of the Week I’ve chosen one of the livelier songs: Aviation. This one is neither pop nor baroque; it’s what I would call indie rock. And it rocks like a roller coaster car lurching crazily around a tight twisting track. Yes, there are strings and they do add a candy floss sweetness to the sound, but the crisp pounding beat of the bass and drums never let’s up, propelling us forward over the heads of the timid onlookers below, as we roll on to an unseen destination.
It’s impossible to do justice to The Last Shadow Puppets without mentioning their lyrics. They have a knack of finding a new twist on an old phrase. For example, here’s a line from the title track of the Everything You’ve Come To Expect album:
As I walk through the chalet of the shadow of Death
No, that’s not a misprint, the vocalist really does sing ‘chalet’. And then there’s this amusing couplet from The Element of Surprise:
I thought they were kisses but apparently not,
Do you end all your messages with an X marks the spot?
The words are often intriguing and occasionally obscure but always thought provoking. Unfortunately, though, the lyrics to Aviation fall into the ‘obscure’ category. I think it’s about a flight of fantasy triggered by gazing into a pair of beautiful eyes. How else can you explain the phrase “sectoral heterochromia” in the first verse? (To save you looking it up that’s a medical condition in which one sector of the iris is a different colour from the rest and it can be quite delightful.)
On the other hand, the Aviation video tells a very different and completely unfathomable story: a distraught bride watches as two men (TLSP’s Turner and Kane) dig a large pit in the sand on a beach watched over by armed men from the mob. Whatever is about to happen it doesn’t involve aeroplanes and it isn’t going to be pretty. Let’s hope it’s just a fantasy.