Miles Kane returns to form with Coup de Grace

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Appearing from the wilderness when we needed him most, Miles Kane has returned to sprinkle his whimsical indie magic over us with new album, Coup De Grace. As per usual, it’s a smorgasbord of interesting & exciting tracks, with the odd filler track hither and dither.

It’s been five long damn years since the release of the patchy but palatable Don’t Forget Who You Are, with Miles having fun in The Last Shadow Puppets, or just generally enjoying being a rockstar, including playing in a Beatles tribute band with Matt Bellamy of Muse. How do you spend your free time?

In an interview with Annie Mac prior to the release of lead single Loaded, the Scouse sonic sorcerer hinted that we’d see a plethora of influences, most interestingly, something that sounds like the Ramones. To which you probably screamed “Bollocks! Miles Kane? Punk? Get away with you”, or more likely went “nice, that’ll be good, maybe”. However, for the percentage of you that screamed bollocks, prepare to be blown away by album opener Too Little Too Late.

It’s Miles Kane alright, but it’s a raughty (raunchy and naughty) punk track to get the album off to a strong start. It’s classic punk, with the frantic, yet simple chords and the structure of the chorus. It’s hard to say the Ramones are an influence on your album and back it up, but with Too Little Too Late, it walks the walk. It’s not a loose bastardisation of a punk song, with the chorus being crooned in Miles’ familiar style, and up-pitch guitar. It sets the standard for the rest of the album, but fortunately, everything else is up to code and doesn’t slip straight down the cliff after the opener.

Even in the weaker parts of this album, even the most casual of Miles Kane fans can take heart knowing that where the tunes are good, the Greatest Showman himself will take these tracks and turn them up to 11 on the live stage. And that’s pretty fucking comforting, knowing how good these songs sound, they’re going to sound twice as better live.

As we do these days, plenty of singles were dropped prior to the album’s release, so let’s take a gander at some brand new bangers. Cold Light Of Day is stunning and follows the same sort of punk-based blueprint as Too Little Too Late, but this is more classic Miles Kane. Again, with many modern albums, it’s hard to work out if it’s an advance in production techniques and sound, or whether everyone’s stepped their game up, because Coup De Grace is miles (HA!) better than Don’t Forget Who You Are, which, although with a few fillers, it was largely killer. Whisper it quietly, but this is even better than Colour of the Trap.

There’s a slightly sentimental vein running through the album, not surprising considering that the writing process for this album was kick-started by Miles having a breakup. However, the first single off the album, Loaded is probably one of the weakest songs on the album, penned about the protagonist’s girlfriend failing to save him, and the first one he wrote off the back of his breakup. At the time it fairly whetted the appetite for a new album, but looking back on it now it pales in comparison to the rest of the album. Even having melancholic maestro Lana Del Rey co-writing the song couldn’t save it from being lackluster. It just doesn’t land, you know? It sort of just fades into the background.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e53GyXCgys]

Keeping the microscope on breakups and new tracks, you’ll be hard pressed to find a track better than Killing The Joke on this album. One of Miles’ strengths is playing a slightly soulful acoustic track, in the vein of Colour of the Trap and Out of Control. It’s quite emotional, and a little bit self-deprecating, it’s nice, there’s a sort of ballroom slow dance feel to it at the start, bathed in dim light, fading into nothingness. There’s even a shout out to Bruce Forsyth with “it’d be nice to see you, to see you nice” in the first verse. Want any proof it’s a good album? There’s a fucking Brucie Bonus on it, name another album with a Brucie Bonus on it.

The new, new songs have a lot of grunt to them, but if you’re looking for a high water mark, or a stand out track, you’re out of luck, because it’s a straight-up scrap between Cry On My Guitar; a dick swinging anthem that swaggers its way through your ears, or title track Coup de Grace, which has a real darkened boudoir feel to it. The vocal style on Coup de Grace particularly is very similar to his friend Alex’s vocal style on a recent album by Arctic Monkeys. Whether the chicken or the egg came first on this vocal delivery is insignificant, as the smooth, velveteen vocals on Coup de Grace really make it, layered over the deep, grooving bass like icing on a sponge cake.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffkom6CLA78]

It’s hard to find a weak point on this album, sure, you might find you spend less time with a track like Shavambacu, the title which reminds you of the “fre shavac ado” vine, rather than something like Cry On My Guitar, but is that a bad thing? No, Coup de Grace’s problem is that there are some inch-perfect tracks on there, which means the tracks that aren’t inch perfect don’t entice you as much. It’s a nice problem to have, that an album has so many perfect tracks, the really good tracks just seem a little less appetising.

Lyrically, you could say it leaves you wanting, but coming to Miles Kane for poignant lyrics and insights on the modern world is like coming to Socrates for his philosophy on drinking cans and wearing skinny jeans; you don’t really come to expect much substance from either. What you come to him for is some dancy tunes, the occasional acoustic banger, and the live show. However, lyrically, he told the BBC that “it’s very personal”, so the story we hear on the record may have completely different meaning to him than it does to us. It’s also quick to poke fun at the comment that he called it his “Adele album”, but from the content & theme of the tracks, it’s quite easy to see what he means; it’s inspired by heartbreak, something that Adele does second class to none.

Shavambacu is the album’s closer, and a common theme in these reviews is making sure the credits roll with a good track, and this is no exception. It’s quite melancholic, with a real “walking through London in the rain feel to it”. Lyrically it feels like the protagonist is pining for their love, and it’s quite a sweet song reflecting and lamenting on missing your lover. Absolutely no fucking clue what Shavambacu means, closest Google Translate offers is that shavambacu is a Malayan word, and is Malayan for shavambacu.

On the whole, the album feels like a complete departure from Don’t Forget Who You Are, and even Colour of the Trap. It still feels like it’s got the familiar Miles Kane feel, but tracks like Silverscreen, with a frantic tempo and strained vocal from Miles feel as far away from his blueprint as possible. However, in the unfamiliarity comes excitement; this is a new sound from Miles, and though “Coup de Grace” is French for “the final blow” (thanks, Google Translate!), fingers crossed that this isn’t the final blow from Miles, and we see something similar to this in the near future.

Gig Review: Miles Kane @ O2 Academy Oxford

words fae Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

The last time I saw Miles Kane perform live, I was in great shape and was wearing a slim fitting paisley shirt. Fast forward four years later, I am in terrible shape and wearing a Metallica t-shirt because I’ve just stopped caring. However, four years between gigs for Miles, and he’s still in great shape as he got the O2 Academy in Oxford shaking, rattling and rolling.

I love Miles Kane, and without sounding too soppy, I’ve missed him. Colour of the Trap and Don’t Forget Who You Are were two fantastic albums, so as soon as he walked on stage with his brand new band and broke into Counting Down the Days, so many memories of Captain Morgan, the aforementioned paisley shirts and being overly handsome (that better be present tense – Ed) came flooding back as the man in leopard print went hell for leather.

Miles Kane’s studio work is good, but his live showmanship is next level; the energy that goes into every song as he bounces about the stage like a man possessed, with all eyes following him around the stage as he played through hits like Inhaler, Better Than That and Taking Over. They sounded inch perfect and studio crisp as a swelling and sweaty O2 Academy bounced around.

The whole purpose of this tour is to get him back up to match fitness and to promote his upcoming album Coup de Grace. The verdict? From what was played last night, Coup de Grace is shoring up to be a fantastic album. On Annie Mac when he was promoting the release of Loaded, he said that you’d see some Ramones influences, which had me sceptical at best. But with Too Little Too Late, you could see what he meant! It was a banger with punk sensibilities and had all the hallmarks of a classic punk track.

The vibe in the Academy was really good as well, it was an exceedingly good, hyperactive crowd, with a good mix of people. You had yer da in his patterned shirt, ready to have an evening before falling asleep by half 10, then there was the young’uns, boys and girls excited by a Saturday night spent in a sweaty room, all having a good time. The moshpits, something we always look for in these reviews, were of a good consistency, everyone was bouncy, respectful and a good clean fight was had, no eye gouging. Everyone was having fun.

A nice surprise was title track Coup de Grace, which was released as a Record Store Day exclusive, but as is the way, soon found itself on YouTube. Maybe it’s because it was a low quality rip off of a vinyl, but I didn’t really like it, especially after how enjoyable Loaded was. However, taking it from the studio to the stage, Coup de Grace found its feet as a funky, dancey track. Cry On My Guitar was also very enjoyable with its very lounge-esque feel to it, something nice and chilled.

 

This becomes even more interesting considering Miles’ best pal Alex Turner, whose band you MIGHT have heard of just released an album with very similar concepts. Perhaps they’ve been sharing notes, and it’ll be interesting to see what the mix is like on CDG, considering we’ve had two chilled tracks with Loaded and Cry On My Guitar, but we’ve also had two dancier track with Coup de Grace and Too Little Too Late. However, all signs are pointing to the fact that Miles Kane is gearing up to release a fantastic album… at some point this year. Maybe, like, tomorrow would be good?

One criticism of this gig could be is that it was too short, around fifteen songs long and almost exactly an hour on the button, but with such a rich catalogue like Miles’, it’d be impossible to not want more from a setlist, as we were missing Kingcrawler, First of my Kind, Tonight and Bombshells to name a few. Me? I’d have had Kaka Boom, The Competition and Caught In The Act on the setlist as well, so perhaps it was better that he kept it short and sweet, rather than play a set that would just be finishing around now.

However, what did make the setlist was just as tantalising as what didn’t, with Give Up producing a huge reaction, that’s a really good live tune, the way the drums are used in the bridge are fantastic, gives the crowd a chance to regroup and move into the big finish. I’m also glad he played Rearrange as that’s another fantastic track, and closing the set out with Come Closer was the perfect end to the evening.

I’m an old man now, and find it hard to be swayed by people, or influenced by them, but it’s impossible for me to not find Miles Kane ridiculously cool. At the front of a sweaty room, he’s just there, dancing about with a selection of cool guitars, in a flowing leopard print shirt, a fancy pair of jeans and some boots. It’s a look that I’d happily cultivate from now until the end of time. You thought Hugh Jackman was the greatest showman? Guess again.

Maybe it’s because I was on a huge nostalgia bender this weekend, or maybe, Miles Kane is preparing for a thermonuclear assault on the music scene. Whilst nothing’s for certain, Coup de Grace could well be Miles’… er… there’s a phrase for this… it’s French, means a killer blow… nah, fuck, it’s gone.

Miles Kane keeps it on ice with loaded

By Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)

Well, it’s about bloody time, Miles Kane. Five long years after the release of the hit ‘n’ miss Don’t Forget Who You Are, Scouse sonic sorcerer Miles is back to remind you who he… are… with his brand new track, Loaded. In support of his new album, Coup de Grace, something that’s apparently been four years in the works, but obviously put on hold for The Last Shadow Puppets, it’s a pretty welcome return to the solo stage for dear Miles.

Loaded is a pretty melancholy track, inspired by a breakup, and the writing process helped along by Jamie T and Lana Del Rey. Kane, on this track and indeed across his discography has a knack for a really smooth, enjoyable vocal delivery and it suits the relaxed, chilled nature of the song. However, as part of his interview for Annie Mac on Radio 1 today, he’s hinted that Coup de Grace will be a bit more “punky” and “upbeat”, with some Ramones influences in it. Big statement, but if executed correctly, could be a real coup de grace for Miles.

This track doesn’t feel that special, if you were expecting some kind of epic, triumphant track to herald his return to his solo work. However, there’s a real chilled out vibe to Miles’ work in general; inoffensive indie rock tunes that slot into any playlist. Loaded exactly matches that category, but it’s chilled, smooth and enjoyable. Think a nice cocktail on a hot-but-not-too-hot summer’s day; that’s this track.

That being said, the notion of switching up the gears and offering some raughty punk bangers is enough to get even the most parched of mouths salivating.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Last Shadow Puppets – Everything You’ve Came To Expect

The number one rule for races is to never use up all your energy at once. For the Miles Kane and Alex Turner duo The Last Shadow Puppets, their latest album is a marathon they’ve been preparing for the better part of 8 years and they’ve not been sitting on their arses while waiting.

Miles Kane is no longer “that guy who hangs about with that bloke from Arctic Monkeys” and Alex Turner has went from Sheffield superstar to international icon, meaning that both are bringing a lot to the table to craft what should be the best British follow up LP this decade. Unfortunately, we get an LP that blows its load as soon as it dashes out the gate, often becoming a parody of itself thereafter.

The aforementioned glory moment of Everything You’ve Came To Expect comes in the form of Aviation, a track that displays any remnants of the band who graced the music scene in 2008 as a refreshing new act. The cunningly crafty guitar riffs that start off the track pair up nicely with Owen Pallett’s gargantuan and dynamic string arrangements which set the scene well, consistently being enjoyable throughout the record’s 40 minute running time.

However, the rest of the album seems to trip over itself with some fairly mediocre tracks such as Miracle Aligner feeling even more disappointing considering what has came before it. Bad Habits is the final nail in the coffin with repetitive and tedious instrumentals severely testing the patience of anyone who happens to come across it. Miles Kane’s vocals, while not dreadful, feel like they would better suit a track a bit more akin to the material he has released on his solo LPs rather than accompanying the mess that it does.

That’s not to say that this record is totally abhorrent as the lavish production value can only be described as impressive, giving a cinematic and theatrical tinge to certain tracks which will help to assist listeners through whatever low points the album offers. There are some gems in the latter half  like Sweet Dreams, TN, an unapologetically lust drenched song that, along with the crooning vocals of Alex Turner, serves as a soothing reminder than when The Last Shadow Puppets are good, they’re really fucking good.

Unfortunately the impressive production also feels quite safe, meaning that even stand out songs can feel like they’re being limited and only steps away from the greatness achieved from their debut.The sad truth of the matter is that for all the “bromance” and banter that Kane and Turner have in their interviews, almost none of that charm seems to transfer on here which would have improved it dramatically, helping to sort out any blandness this LP has in bucketloads. What tends to be the best thing about duos is that a clash of sounds brings out something neither artist could do on their own whereas here, it feels like a sloppy Alex Turner solo project with “that guy who hangs about with that bloke from Arctic Monkeys”.

4/10

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TRACK REVIEW: The Last Shadow Puppets – Miracle Aligner

“It’s about a yoga teacher” Alex Turner says in his Yorkshire heavy tone when Zane Lowe asks what his and long time friend Miles Kane’s latest single is about. You’d think considering the weight of the situation, promoting their upcoming second LP as the duo The Last Shadow Puppets named Everything You’ve Came To Expect, that he would take it a bit more serious but that’s arguably the charm of the Arctic Monkeys frontman: he doesn’t give a fuck.

https://embed.itunes.apple.com/us/embedded-player/idsa.52dd5ecb-f501-11e5-9be2-1efaae453174

It’s all fine and dandy to have the care free attitude as long as you’re delivering the goods. Turner could afford that whenever AM came out as regardless of how divisive their new sound was, it sold a fuck ton meaning he could wear that slick back hair and leather jacket without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately it seems like the ego has got the best of him as we get a track that feels like a retread with very little attention paid to it.

Whilst it’s not a horrendous track by any means, Miracle Aligner evokes all the low points and issues I had with the Arctic Monkey’s last outing (slow tempo with an uninteresting vocal delivery and very little in the way of variety) and from what has been presented so far, this LP seems more like an Alex Turner solo project than a collaboration with little to know influence from Kane’s music whatsoever on here. Very safe and borderline bland, it’s a shame that years and years of waiting for The Last Shadow Puppets to return has resulted in a mess of singles which, while all different from one another, feel like this upcoming album has been rushed rather than polished.

Miles Kane and Alex Tuner of the Last Shadow Puppets.

That could arguably be the charm of this record, an album that may reek of carelessness but is fueled by two artists that have a great chemistry and work off one another. Time will tell if that’s the case but from what has been delivered so far, that third album we’ve been teased about may have to go back to the drawing board.

Fingers crossed.