Still only 32, Miles Kane has been around a long time having debuted at 18 with cult psych Scouse band The Little Flames followed by his short-lived breakaway outfit The Rascals. After that he formed The Last Shadow Puppets with mate Alex Turner before going solo.
Kane started writing his third solo album Coup De Grace soon after his previous offering Don’t Forget Who You Are, but the flow was interrupted by making the Puppets’ second album Everything You’ve Come To Expect (released in 2016), after which he found it hard to complete – but once he got in the studio it took just two weeks to record.
It’s unfortunate for Kane that he’s probably best known for being one half of what is essentially a side-project of the Arctic Monkeys’ front man. Despite his own undeniable talents as a singer/guitarist/songwriter he seems to have been following in the slipstream of more successful artists most of his career without really forging his own distinctive musical identity.
Known as a Mod, a lot of Kane’s solo output could be described as Britpop-influenced retro lad rock, with him coming across as a less truculent younger brother of the Gallaghers (and, yes, he’s mates with both of them too).
Apart from Turner – who co-wrote most of Kane’s debut solo album Colour Of The Trap – he has also collaborated on songwriting with the likes of Andy Partridge, Paul Weller, Ian Broudie, Gruff Rhys and Guy Chambers. This time it’s the turn of Jamie T, with whom Kane co-wrote seven of the 10 shortish tracks on Coup De Grace, with punchy production from John Congleton.
This album expresses a more sensitive side to Kane’s laddish personality but though the music is pretty strong and varied (if tending to be derivative) it is once again let down too often by immature lyrics that display more self-pity than emotional intelligence. Apparently inspired by the painful break-up of a long-term relationship, the songs are more introspective than usual but not very coherent with their mixture of pleading and self-justification.
The album opens full throttle with the rough-edged Too Little Too Late, a punky thrash with shouty vocals turning into a Marc Bolanesque croon (which recurs throughout the album), as Kane sings: “I’m too fickle / Set in my ways… I try but I can’t be what I’m not.” Cry On My Guitar goes full glam-stomp T Rex, with its swaggering vibe and strutting riffs plucked from the likes of Get It On, not to mention a name check for fellow glam-rockers Sweet’s Ballroom Blitz.
For lead single – and standout song – Loaded, Kane and Jamie T are joined in the songwriting by Lana Del Rey (who also sings backing vocals). But the pathos of “My baby’s always threatening to leave… Almost brought me down to my knees” is undercut by the crass lines “Funky like a monkey / With my makeup running”.
Cold Light Of Day sets a hectic pace, with a Supergrass-like cheekily catchy chorus, as Kane complains about feeling disconnected because “Your girlfriend no longer posts”, as well as making a bizarrely gratuitous reference to Charles Manson. Toning it down, Killing The Joke is the closest thing to a ballad, albeit a bit spaced out, with Kane sounding uncommonly like Mr Turner in lounge lizard mode, as he bemoans his loneliness: “Since you been gone I left the TV on / Let the milk go sour, let the bills pile up.”
In the title track (mispronounced in the English way as ‘gras’) percussive funky grooves take over as Kane – now more resembling Kasabian‘s Tom Meighan – invites the final blow to end the relationship and put him out of his misery, while Silverscreen bristles with aggro in its spiky guitar playing.
Kane gives his most passionate vocal delivery in the big soulful number The Wrong Side of Life, as he pleads: “I don’t want no more fighting, no more hurting, baby… oh, I just need you.” Something to Rely On features piercing guitar and soaring keyboards, but the album swings to an unexpected close with the spooky jazz of Shavambacu.
Coup De Grace has plenty to offer, but it’s not a big step forward from Kane’s previous solo work. If you liked that you’ll probably like this; if you didn’t, this probably won’t change your mind.