Album Review: Miles Kane - 'Coup de Grace'

Last Shadow Puppets member and celebrated indie rocker Miles Kane steps out of the shadows on assured third album.

There are some artists who are able to live a relatively peaceful and mundane lifestyle, opting to produce and release new material at a pace of their own choosing. Then there’s Miles Kane, the enigmatic and ever excitable troubadour, who first tasted success as a musician playing lead guitar on Arctic Monkeys’ iconic 505. Since then, the incredible rise of the Monkeys’ status as the twenty-first century’s most endearing band has been a cause for celebration for Miles Kane, whose best friend is the Sheffield group’s frontman Alex Turner – who recorded seminal album The Age of the Understatement with Kane in 2008 under the group name The Last Shadow Puppets.

The success of the Last Shadow Puppets’ debut record allowed Kane the resources to record rollicking debut album Colour of the Trap in 2011, which was quickly followed up in 2013 by Don’t Forget Who You Are– Kane’s first top 10 record. Both were filled to the brim with charm, wit, and exuberance – qualities gained and enhanced by his friendship with Alex Turner. The success of Arctic Monkeys’ AM delayed a second TLSP record until 2016 when rock’s favourite bromance was rekindled over the staggeringly charming Everything You’ve Come To Expect. The hedonistic lifestyle that comes with touring with your best friend suited Kane’s typically boisterous personality, giving him the opportunity to tour all over the world and meet a vast selection of celebrities.

A notable highlight in Miles Kane’s career was in Los Angeles where he once enlisted Paul McCartney to perform with Kane’s own Beatles super-group cover band, in which he plays with Muse’s Matt Bellamy and Nine Inch Nails’ Ilan Rubin. His career to date has always been cast under the shadow of Alex Turner but with the emotional pain that came with the breakup of a two- year relationship, Kane has returned with an assured third LP, Coup De Grace, an album which has allowed him to demonstrate a new level of maturity alongside his developing capabilities as a vocalist and songwriter.

Whilst promoting Coup De Grace, Kane described the album as his “Adele moment,” perhaps hinting at the more emotionally charged style of songwriting that was influenced by both the end of his relationship and his choice to enlist indie troubadour Jamie T and the iconic Lana Del Rey as songwriters on the record. Lead single ‘Loadedis perhaps the most obvious example of the three minds at work. An intoxicating single, ‘Loaded’ carries a punchy Jamie T-esque vocal delivery in the verses whilst Del Rey’s poetic mind is beautifully sewn into the fabric of the lush, addictive chorus. Lyrics “My baby’s always threatening to leave / You can do that or be here,” highlight Kane’s constant relationship torment and the track as a whole highlights the level of maturity that Miles Kane has reached over the past few years.

Kane’s emotional maturity is apparent throughout the LP. ‘Killing the Joke’ is a serene insight into the impact of his breakup containing lyrics like “I live a lonely life,” and “Since you’ve been gone / Left the TV on / Let the milk go sour / Let the bills pile up.” It’s an honest and heartfelt single with a gleaming synth line shining across the track. Line “You’re my top 100 shows” brings a tear to the eye in what is perhaps Kane’s most thoughtful piece of writing in his solo career to date and a true highlight of the album. The mesmerising introduction of ‘Wrong Side Of Life’ entices you into yet another highlight on the album. Staccatoed drums accompany the troubled troubadour as he pines for his ex-girlfriend. Lyrics including “Baby I would die for you” and “I feel you don’t love me no more” are sung in stunning fashion, as the emotional singer finds a range which many didn’t think was possible for him to reach. As his vocals break off towards the end of the track, into a sporadic trail of thought and desire, you can’t help but think that his recent time with Alex Turner for the second Last Shadow Puppets record has done him a world of good for his maturity. Turner’s charmingly smooth character has clearly rubbed off on Kane as the finger-clicking intro of ‘Shavambucu’ suggests. As the LP’s closing track, it’s an intriguing blend of mystical guitar and Beach Boys-esque piano amongst jazz-tinged vocals. Containing further lamentations to his former lover, line “I’m not in LA to have my way with you,” yearns with full-blooded desire.

Now aged 32, Kane’s time as a youthful troublemaker from Liverpool might be slowly coming to an end, although the album’s raucous opening track ‘Too Little Too Late’ certainly disagrees with that statement. With its thundering Maccabees-esque opening, the single is a beautifully balanced insight into modernity, highlighting the singer’s elevation to stylish and brooding frontman. Line “I’m too fickle, set in my ways,” is decisively honest and proves that Kane’s not afraid to put his own flaws onto the table. ‘Cold Light of the Day’ is another modernistic track, a short but sweet dose of pure rock and roll, containing a fierce riff and thumping chorus which brings us back to the jovial nature of Kane’s first two albums. Whilst both tracks push the Merseyside singer into modern territory, there are moments in which Kane happily borrows from the past, whether it be the sha-la-la-ing of ‘Cry On My Guitaror the shuffling funk of title track ‘Coup de Grace’. Whilst the former is a foot-stomping and shimmying glam-rock ode to Kane’s love of wrestling, the latter is a sprawling blend of Kasabian-meets-Chic-meets-Prince. The throbbing base line adds to the shuffling funk of a single which sees Kane really stepping up as commander-in-chief.

With elements of real promise across the record, there is a sense of positivity for Kane as a solo artist. There are moments, however, which pose a threat to the authenticity of the record. Whilst Kane and Turner’s friendship is always a sight to see, Turner’s influence on Kane is glaringly obvious, so much so that at times you aren’t sure as to whether you’re listening to Miles Kane or a Humbug-era Arctic Monkeys track. There’s a disappointing level of predictability in ‘Silverscreen’, which despite the bouncing percussion and screeching vocals, falls slightly flat in comparison with the fury of ‘Cold Light of the Day’. The shuffling ‘Something To Rely On’ contains a fizzing guitar line which feels almost alien on the record, and is such a mix and match of various ideas that the subsequent combination of them all feels slightly awkward and reduces the compactness of the LP as a whole.

Aside from two slight hiccups, Coup De Grace really is a tour de force of emotion and drive, which sees Miles Kane transitioning from scruffy troublemaker to sharp crooner. The combination of him, Jamie T, and Lana Del Rey have managed to tap into the emotional turmoil of heartbreak and have conjured an album of sublime beauty and slickness. There is a noticeable leap in maturity between this record and its predecessor, with clear signs of the potential that could soon follow in the years to come. Ten years ago, Miles Kane was virtually invisible, such was the size of the shadow cast by Alex Turner. Now, with a third solo album under his belt, the shadows are clearing and the emergence of another indie rock icon is on the horizon.

Miles Kane tours the UK in November and December 2018 and plays Nottingham’s Rock City on Friday 7th December with Cabbage supporting.

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