Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Not The First Of His Kind: Can Miles Kane Rise To The Top Of The British Indie Pile With ‘Change The Show’?

Miles Kane is about as big as it is possible to get in indie circles. 

The sort of artist that everyone who goes to 42s in Manchester will have heard of, but go across the road into The Ivy in Spinningfields, and most of the clientele would think Miles Kane is the name of their server. They might even tip him £5.05. 

He is guaranteed healthy crowds at any festival slot, but never quite makes it to headline status.  

With a new album announced and a new single out now, will Miles come closer to conquering the mainstream or will it be everything we’ve come to expect? 


He is the epitome of the ever-present, quintessentially British artist who seems to lack mass appeal. Often these artists; find their niche after mass success with another outfit. Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, and Johnny Marr spring to mind, though maybe Mr. Kane is more comparable to Gaz Coombes. Even then, however, Supergrass have probably had more cultural impact than either of Miles’ previous bands prior to his solo career. These artists never truly shake their past, but that isn’t something that – on the surface at the very least – Miles should be shackled by. 


But of course, Miles Kane is forever followed. Less by the outfit he is part of, but more by his significant other half. Picture him sitting in the back booth of the Rat & Parrot, with some Ghost Riders for company. Donning a Paul Smith suit and sipping a double bourbon on the rocks. Then, the saloon doors swing open to a pounding drum beat and an eerie piano playing in the distance. A man stands there dressed in a safari suit, with a notepad in one hand and a mojito in the other. Ennio Morricone chokes on his Jack & Coke, Scott Walker hides behind the bar and Isaac Hayes asks for his money back. But Miles stands up with outstretched arms and cries ‘Greetings, you old bastard!’ Of course, that man is Alex Turner. 


Maybe it’s unfair on Miles Kane, to begin with his association with Alex Turner & their supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets, but their bromance has been subject to the most publicity of his career. Some of it good – like the acclaim they got for their Mercury prize-nominated first album and some of it bad, like the infamous interview they did with Spin promoting their second, with Miles making Rachel Brodsky, the reporter, feel uncomfortable with ill-judged comments. (He later apologised to her). 


This aside, the music they’ve made is significant in dissecting what we can expect from Miles Kane’s new album. It is some of his most well-known and well-received work, and he plays a vital role in the creation of the tunes. Alex Turner’s prowess as a lyricist is, as it is with Arctic Monkeys, on full display over both of the duo’s albums, but so is Kane’s virtuosity as a musician. On their debut ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ they crafted a beautiful love letter to the symphonic pop days of the 60s, after initially bonding over a mutual love of Scott Walker. By their second release ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’, they’d evolved into self-styled sex god’s in LA, singing about sex, to a sexy blend of R&B, Americana, and Orchestral Rock. But Miles Kane has oft been forgotten – Pitchfork described him as the least well-known contributor in their review of ‘The Age Of The Understatement’ and later that his claim to fame was simply being friends with one of the biggest names in rock music today. This unfairly downplays his contribution, not only his blended harmonies but also his influence on the music – 20 of the band’s 23 songs across both studio releases is credited as Kane/Turner. He also adds a rougher edge to the outfit’s moodier, more atmospheric tunes such as ‘Aviation’ and ‘Pattern’ on their most recent release and ‘I Don’t Like You Anymore’ from their first. 


The cinematic quality found over both the Puppets’ albums is also found on his new single ‘Don’t Let It Get You Down’, which I’ll come to in a bit. But in truth, it’s always been present. Even in his aforementioned bands prior to his solo work. Firstly as guitarist for The Little Flames and secondly as frontman and chief songwriter for The Rascals. Particularly noticeable in the latter's ‘I’ll Give You Sympathy’ is the influence of a shimmery sixties swing. Both acts got swamped amongst the sheer volume of naughties Brit rockers, such as Arctic Monkeys’ – who Kane supported with both acts, which led to his guest role on ‘505’, which in turn, was Turner’s first stray into creating soundscapes for nonexistent Spaghetti Western’s. His solo work is littered with R&B-infused, shimmery road trip ready meals to dig into, specifically his debut ‘Colour Of The Trap’.


Maybe his biggest downfall has been his inability to find the niche that he can truly feel comfortable in. Despite his musical abilities and an ear for an infectious melody, he lacks the sucker punch the scale as say, his partner in crime’s gift for whimsical wordplay and withering observation. He has written and featured on some bangers – but none that are ever first on a party playlist. From The Little Flames ‘Put Your Jukes Up John’ to his solo efforts such as ‘Come Closer’ or ‘Inhaler’ – they will be included, but maybe only because they were suggested by the algorithms. 


His most well-known solo works such as ‘Inhaler’ and maybe his signature song ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ tone down the sixties R&B influence in favour of a more mainstream alt-rock anthemic sound, but their lack of widespread recognition make them forgotten gems. He also made a curious side-step for his third solo outing, 2018’s ‘Coup De Grace’. Coming two years after the second Puppets record, he pursued a more glam-rock sound, this time collaborating with the one-man Arctic Monkey, Jamie T. Often it seemed more of a pastiche, despite his ability to usually incorporate a retro shimmer into his own identity. This is particularly present on the title track and ‘Cry On My Guitar’. The clear Jamie T influence on the lyrics and melody of songs such as ‘Too Little Too Late’ and ‘Loaded’ (which also features a writing credit for Lana Del Rey) also feel overwhelming, 


This isn’t to say it’s bad – and he still conjures up a Wall of Sound belter in ‘Wrong Side Of Life’ but it was lacking in his usual retro buzz. But his frequent collaborations with some of his most well-known peers clearly show he courts their respect. His debut solo album also featured a guest appearance from Noel Gallagher and he is a member of the only-covers-super-group The Jaded Hearts Club, also comprised of Matt Bellamy & Graham Coxon. So, at the very least, he has plenty of famous weapons at his disposal, which places him in an enviable position in the music industry, even if your mum doesn’t know who he is, she’s probably heard of one of his mate’s bands. 


The release of his ‘Don’t Let It Get You Down’ signals a return to his Mowtown influenced indie smooth jangles. It has an infectious groove and is already one of stronger solo offerings. His upcoming fourth album ‘Change The Show’ will no doubt be anticipated from all the Fred Perry donning kids in the indie bars across the country, but it also may be what is needed to establish Miles Kane as an immoveable British institution. He may never have the name recognition of some of his collaborators, but he could prove he is more than a poor man’s Liam Gallagher and instead is a solid & reliable craftsman. If only to give him enough scope to allow his formidable live cover of ‘Hot Stuff’ during his Coup De Grace Tour (which I was lucky enough to witness twice) to come out as a bootleg.


Change The Show’ could make Miles Kane a ‘Don’ of the British music scene. He has enough clout in his own output and enough influential and important allies to make that an irresistible offering, and surely we cannot refuse.


Change The Show’ will be released on 21st of January 2022 and Miles Kane will then tour the UK, with tickets going on general sale at 10am on Friday 10th of September 2021.


Miles Kane 2022 UK Tour Dates:

·      Albert Hall, Manchester – 28/01

·      The Leadmill, Sheffield – 31/01

·      02 Academy, Leeds – 01/02

·      02 Academy, Newcastle – 03/02

·      02 Academy, Glasgow – 04/02

·      02 Institute, Birmingham – 05/02

·      The Tramshed, Cardiff – 07/02

·      02 Academy, Bristol – 08/02

·      02 Academy 1, Oxford – 10/02

·      Engine Rooms, Southampton – 11/02

·      The Waterfront, Norwich – 12/02

·      Cambridge Junction, Cambridge – 14/02

·      Roadmender, Northampton – 15/02

·      Roundhouse, London – 16/02

·      Rock City, Nottingham – 18/02

·      02 Academy 1, Liverpool – 19/02


Tom Pritchard


Image: 'Change The Show' Official Album Artwork


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