Miles Kane is an artist that has never really seemed to become the star he once threatened to be. He struggles to get the recognition that he often deserves: his name is familiar but people don’t know why or merely know him as ‘that lad who comes on when Arctic Monkeys play ‘505′ live’ – very much a peripheral figure of the indie market. I’ve always thought that this is a bit unfair on Miles, who is an outstanding musician and song-writer in his own right, but he lives in the shadow of his collaborator-in-chief Alex Turner, with whom Kane forms The Last Shadow Puppets.
The reason that ‘Coup De Grace’ seems to be more anticipated than previous releases also rests on the back of Arctic Monkeys, and the gap they left in the indie-rock genre by releasing their recent album ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino’. I felt like this was an opportunity for Miles to pick up the mantle left behind and satisfy a group of fans crying out for a proper rock and roll record. There was a real promise that this might happen – with Miles Kane publicly stating that this would be his heaviest album yet: something I felt was necessary, with previous albums ‘Colour of the Trap’ and ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ seeming to lack edge.
Ironically, it is the slower melancholy of Killing the Joke that is my favourite of the new offerings. The acoustic guitar was reminiscent of classic-Oasis, but the synthesised and electric overtones modernise the sound – perhaps in line with the ‘sci-fi’ evolution of Arctic Monkeys. This 80’s- style ‘space-pop’ vibe is recreated more in title-track Coup De Grace but Miles Kane manages to do this whilst retaining his indie-rock style – what Alex Turner was criticised for not doing. What I find impressive about Miles Kane is how he manages to maintain the identifiable twang of his vocals despite the high pace and intricate melody of the verses.
Wrong Side of Life and Something to Rely On will be the most successful songs from this album, following each other in sequence as you listen through, I found that they were a real gear change for the record. The driving opening beats of Wrong Side of Life grabs you by the balls and forces you to start listening after a faded opening, and holds your attention with the gravelly roar of powerful emotion throughout. This gear change into real indie-rock continues through to Something to Rely On which is very much Circa Waves-esque, the pitch and tone of Kane’s voice works perfectly over the fast paced guitar-driven track. I especially like how close together the lines on this song are, it shows a more intricate style of writing and skill of performance to do this than to space the lines apart.
Saying this, the closing track – Shavambacu – is slow placed during the verses, but it still manages to work, fitting well to the lyrics of the song: the verses centre around Kane and his lover’s ‘ghost eyes’ wandering around the room whilst the restricted, repetitive melody creeps alongside. This is a great contrast to the upbeat innocence of the chorus where the track fills out with piano and drums, to fit the playfulness of Kane’s confession of love:
“some say ‘je t’aime beaucoup’, I say, my darling, ‘shavambacu’ … oh honey I love you”
I have mixed feelings about the use of this sequence of tracks being used in the way they are – to close the album – as I feel like they would work well to entice the listener at the start of the album. However, the current opening sequence of Too Little Too Late and Cry on My Guitar is very much in the same vein as these songs in terms of the driving pace and intensity of the backing track – they are simply not as good, in my opinion. The feeling of Kane’s voice seems less real and honest on some tracks to others, and less approachable because of it. This album suffers from an issue that a lot of records do when they have a similar sound throughout, those songs that aren’t as good get lost and forgotten if not ordered in the right way; I found when listening to the album for the first time that once I reached these later songs that I’d forgotten what went before.
It isn’t that these songs aren’t good in their own right – the lead single Loaded – written in collaboration with Lana Del Rey – is a brilliant track, for instance: I think the issue is more that the songs become inconsequential to the album, because there is essentially a better, more intense, more honest version elsewhere on the record.
Regardless of these issues I would say that ‘Coup De Grace’ does what I believe it set out to do – fill the Arctic Monkeys-shaped hole in the indie-rock market, and that it reached Number 1 in the vinyl chart in its first week of release is testament to how much the indie community have taken to the album.
As much as I’d love to give this album ‘Four Stars Out of Five’ for poetic justice, I feel like it just misses out on a finishing touch to make the record feel more complete: 3.5/5
‘Coup De Grace’ is out now to buy and stream; Miles Kane is also on tour this winter, with tickets still available here!