Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner has never been one for vague disclosures. His lyrics often feature long, twisting details of urban tomfoolery and daft-punk diatribes about teenage life in seedy Sheffield. It’s both predictable and surprising, then, that his first piece of non-Monkey business would be an aggrandizing long-player (co-written with Miles Kane of upstart U.K. band the Rascals) supported by the 22-piece London Metropolitan Orchestra and titled, naturally, The Age Of The Understatement (Domino). The video for the opening title track provides most everything you need to know about the Last Shadow Puppets: Turner and Kane, looking dour in shaggy Beatles bowl cuts and leftover wardrobes from the 1964 Help! shoot, recline on a Russian battle tank like a couple of comrades while battalions of troops sing backup vocals in the snow. Much like the half-galloping, half-prancing album, it’s equal parts goofily outsized and gloriously over-the-top. Turner debunked MAGNET’s myths over the breakfast din of a Manhattan diner.
The Puppets’ first public appearances were impromptu acoustic gigs around New York City this spring.
It didn’t sound much like the record, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. [The show] was a little bit dodgy. I guess the people in front couldn’t really hear anything, and the sound on the stage kept cutting out and squeaking.
The songwriters each composed a third of the album individually before collaborating on the final third.
Even the ones that we wrote separately, we finished together. We would see however it went in the studio. (Producer/drummer) James (Ford) would suggest sometimes, like, “I think you should sing this one.” We always wanted to do one line each. But after you’ve done that a couple of times, you don’t want to do it on every song. It’s like (Lou Reed’s) “Perfect Day” on the BBC. [Laughs] It was kind of whichever way it fell out. We would just do harmony on some tracks.
Like the Raconteurs’ Jack White and Brendan Benson, the vocal timbres of Turner and Kane are nearly indistinguishable.
It’s like a double-track sometimes. Maybe it’s because we’ve heard it quite a lot now—and obviously we know the difference—but James says you can tell them apart. You just can’t tell when it changes from one to the other.
Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett, whose string arrangements appear on every track, originally was a referral.
The label suggested someone else who was a friend of his, and the friend suggested we use him. We met him on tour, and it seemed like he was perfect for it.
Harmonizing is a little-known skill of the Russian Army.
We had them in the studio. [Laughs] Piled ‘em in. That was the idea of the (video) director (Romain Gavras). As soon as he heard the (title) track, he was like, “We need to go to Moscow.” He had all these setups, one of which was the army he got to do the “ahh”s. They’re the real guard. It was [difficult], but it wasn’t as expensive as you’d think. There was a lot of favors going on.
Turner enjoys taking the piss out of the annual BRIT Awards, with previous Monkeys’ acceptance speeches featuring fake band members and costumes pulled from the Village People and The Wizard Of Oz.
We like to take the piss out of most things. It’s all kind of hazy in memory, actually.
—Noah Bonaparte Pais