Words by Murray Collie.
Hair slicked back, shoulder-length, jet black; Miles Kane poses in the doorway of his favourite greasy spoon café in London, sporting a slim-fitting black tracksuit with the iconic Fred Perry Laurel Wreath neatly positioned on the breast and thigh. This collaboration between the subculture fashion giant and the Merseyside born indie hero has an Americanised twist that encapsulates Kane’s new LA lifestyle where he spent time writing his first solo album since 2013 – bowling shirts, velour jackets; the lot. This is just another day for an artist who, at the age of 32, already boasts an illustrious career that has seen him front two bands, co-front another and release two solo albums on which Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller both feature.
Kane’s road to the eagerly anticipated third solo record entitled ‘Coup De Grace’ has been a rocky one. The writing of the album started almost immediately after his second LP ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ was released, however, after teaming up with lifelong friend Alex Turner, his next solo venture was side-lined to allow the pair to focus on The Last Shadow Puppets’ new material.
Handfuls of debauchery later, Kane and Turner both returned to their drawing boards and whilst the latter was cleverly devising plans for ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino’, the former found himself lacking in musical inspiration and dealing with the aftermath of a chaotic breakup. Songs that had previously filled Kane with excitement no longer did so and were subsequently discarded. Cue the intervention of Jamie T who had, for years, joked with Kane about potentially jamming together. The rap-rock phenomenon from South London gave Miles the lift he needed, encouraging honesty in his lyrics whilst opening his mind to alternative methods of delivery. The inclusion of Lana Del Rey’s influence only helps to bring out the best Miles Kane we’ve seen to date.
The album’s opener – ‘Too Little Too Late’ – sets the precedent for much of what’s to come with it’s upbeat, rolling tempo. Inspired by the likes of The Damned and Misfits, Kane offers an exaggerated view into his new, lavish LA lifestyle that is a million miles away from his concrete roots in Liverpool – ‘Coming down like a limousine / Follow drag queens and sharks / It’s all entertainment and trademark.’
Short and sweet, the track sets up well for the most emotional, heart-on-the-sleeve song on the album – ‘Cry on My Guitar.’ Keeping with a punky, Bolan-esque rhythm but with the lyrical delivery slowed and crooning, the toxicity of the former Rascals frontman most recent relationship becomes apparent. It’s clear that post-Puppets and pre-Jamie, Kane was truly “high and strung”, confused by his lack of passion for something that once gave him such joy.
It was at a Jamie T acoustic gig in LA where the LP’s first single ‘Loaded’ started its journey. In conversation with Lana Del Rey, Miles explained his newfound passion for his music and how much he was enjoying his current writing process. Unsurprisingly, Lana was interested in getting involved and later the new super-trio found themselves in the studio working on a modern rock’n’roll track that is brought to life by New York-born talent. Sounding like the theme track from a Bond film, ‘Loaded’ comes complete with a signature Miles Kane riff, a melodic Del Rey chorus and punchy lyrics that we’ve come to associate with Jamie T. It is one of the record’s most formidable tracks.
Frustration, jealousy and anger are commonalities that ‘Silverscreen’, ‘Something to Rely On’ and ‘Cold Light of the Day’ share. The tracks, that Miles himself admits are “bangers”, are directly fuelled by the breakup that seems to be the subject of so much of the album. They follow the same upbeat pace of the opening track with the now familiar punky rhythm rife in each. Packed with raw, intense emotion that gets right up in your face, these are tracks that have a live performance in mind – when they inevitably become a feature in the setlist of Kane’s gig’s, they will truly come into their own. Mosh pit inducing carnage incoming.
But not every listing in this ten-part whirlwind makes it feel like you’ve just done ten rounds with Mike Tyson. If it was ever in question before, both ‘Killing the Joke’ and ‘The Wrong Side of Life’ show that Kane is more than willing the move away from the aggressive, cut-throat tracks that the LP also makes time for. Both are rough around the edges – just demos in which Kane and Jamie play every instrument involved but this is a somewhat light relief to an already well-polished album. The vocals on each demonstrate Kane’s sheer flair which is often overlooked given his undisputed prowess as a guitarist. It seems that the most important ingredient in the modern day rock ‘n’ roll record recipe for success is at least one slowed down ballad that tries to replicate what Lennon managed to do so well. We know from the title track from Kane’s debut album ‘Colour Of The Trap’ that he is a subscriber to the occasional slow-moving love song but both these tracks are still packed with soul and personality.
Inspired by his geeky love for WWE and Irish professional wrestling superstar Finn Bálor, the mesmeric and almost psychedelic title track ‘Coup De Grace’ is a prime example of why Kane is not necessarily the conventional Rockstar. This funky, disco dance track is more ‘The Magnificent Seven’ by the Clash than anything by the Sex Pistols but it’s just another example of Kane’s diversity as an artist.
Literally meaning “the final blow”, the track could’ve easily been the albums finishing move but that honour is reserved for the witty ‘Shavambacu’. A number that had already drawn in fan attention after being posted by Kane on Instagram, ‘Shavambacu’ is written about a generational nickname that Kane’s nan coined after mishearing Dean Martin singing “je t’aime beaucoup” – quite comical really but a genius idea for a song. Sounding like the pink panther in its opening, the song is another one of Kane’s effortless love songs – “My little darling shavambacu, oh honey I love you” – that brings with it a great deal of fun which rounds off an album filled with Miles’ grief and rage.
Miles Kane’s ambitious and daring third solo album is crammed full of heartache and poured out emotion and it’s clear that blood, sweat and especially tears have gone into its production. Described as “an Adele album” by some, Kane’s emotional vulnerability is there for all to see, but – guess what? Even the model dating, crowd surfing, rock ‘n’ rolling types are allowed to let it all out now and again. ‘Coup De Grace’ is diverse to a point that, if tracks 11 and 12 were both rip-roaring grime numbers, we probably would just go with it which is a testament to Miles, Jamie, Lana and producer John Congleton’s talents. Lyrically, it’s clearly sentimental to the artist and is at time confusing to understand, which will displease those that long to dissect each and every track, line by line but ultimately, the beauty is in the mystery.
Review by Murray Collie, you can follow Murray on twitter here.