Given Brit-rock’s propensity for irony, it’s fitting that the Last Shadow Puppets — a collaboration between Arctic Monkeys’ majordomo Alex Turner and Miles Kane, who leads new wave revivalists the Rascals — would title their Domino debut “The Age of the Understatement.” As borne out by this perf, the band’s Stateside unveiling, there’s nothing understated about the vision or the execution of the combo, which takes an overtly retro, Van Dyke Parks-inspired approach to orchestral rock a la Spiritualized.
Abetted by a dozen-piece string section and a full complement of brass, the band managed to navigate the dynamic of swirling numbers like “Mistakes Were Made” with an assurance that kept the potential for pomp at bay. The insistence on infusing every song with definable portent got a bit tiring at times — “I Don’t Like You Anymore,” for instance, would’ve worked better as a pure punk dose of adrenaline — but Turner’s instincts usually reined in the ensemble before they ran fully off the rails.
That effort was shored up by the compositional strength of the band’s originals — a power that belies the relative novice status of the co-captains, both of whom are just 22 years old. Not since the heyday of Paul Weller have such young Turks managed to draw on, but not Xerox, the great Brit-pop songbook.
The band fleshed out the relatively short set with a scattershot collection of covers, ranging from a ham-fisted take on the Beatles’ already overweening “She’s So Heavy” to an ethereally nuanced version of Leonard Cohen’s “Memories.” Most telling, however, was the decision to tackle “My Little Red Book,” the Bacharach-David tune that earned a bit of mainstream acclaim for the Puppets’ most direct inspiration, the Arthur Lee-led Love. Neither Turner nor Kane seems capable of reaching the astral plane that Lee projected from, but their instincts are such that they may approach it one day.
The Last Shadow Puppets play the Mayan Ballroom in Los Angeles tonight.