The sharpest suit in rock has long since stepped out of the shadows of his famous friends and is every bit his own man
It’s interesting that Miles Kane’s chosen to call his second album ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’. Around the time of his 2011 debut, ‘Colour Of The Trap’, the message coming from the Kane camp was the exact opposite. Wirral’s best-tailored export wanted listeners to remove his most successful work, with Alex Turner in The Last Shadow Puppets, from their memories. That was old. This is new.
And it worked. The record was good enough to show the world that Kane was more than just a good friend of the Arctic Monkeys man. Yes, Turner co-wrote half of the songs on it, but Kane’s promise and talent were obvious. The likes of ‘Take The Night From Me’ and ‘Quicksand’ provided the all-important bridge between ‘Colour Of The Trap’ and the Puppets’ Scott Walker-inspired ‘The Age Of The Understatement’. And there was more than enough promise in ‘Inhaler’, ‘Rearrange’, ‘Come Closer’ and ‘Happenstance’, the latter of which saw the former member of short-lived indie-rockers The Little Flames live out his Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin fantasies with 127 Hours star Clémence Poésy. No-one saw that coming.
For ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’, 27-year-old Kane has trimmed the fat from his sound. Fitting, perhaps, for an album with a cover that has him standing in front of a butcher’s shop. The longest of the 11 songs, the finale ‘Darkness In Our Hearts’, is only three-and-a-half minutes long, and almost every other track whizzes along and maintains the pace and intensity of Kane’s live show. Lightning Seeds head honcho Ian Broudie is on production duties, and he has a big say in the pacing, keeping Kane’s foot to the floor and curbing any indulgent excesses or throwaway moments. The fuzzy glam stomp of opener ‘Taking Over’ sees him coming on like T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan, and is a song so instantly familiar it seems remarkable that it’s not been recorded before. The title track stomps just as hard, and delivers Kane’s key message to any who might doubt his abilities: “Don’t build me up/Make up your mind/And keep the faith/I’ll keep the faith”. ‘Better Than That’ completes the album’s flat-out opening. By the time the trio of songs finish, less than 10 minutes in, you start getting the sense that ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ is a real step forward. The energy is outrageous. The lyrics are forthright. And, most importantly, the majority of the ideas are Kane’s.
Vocally, he still owes a giant debt to Liam Gallagher – hear his arrogant, snarling delivery on the title track and ‘Tonight’ for proof – and John Lennon. On ‘Out Of Control’, a song backed by a ‘Jealous Guy’-style piano and string arrangement, Kane couldn’t sound more like the former Beatle if he tried. Elsewhere, Paul Weller pops up to play piano on ‘Fire In My Heart’, a song the former Jam man also co-wrote. Oddly, considering its title and the rest of the album’s otherwise aggressive nature, it’s a misjudged dip of the toe into the stagnant waters of dadrock, plodding along and going absolutely nowhere. It’s particularly jarring sandwiched between the lively ‘What Condition Am I In?’ and Weller’s other appearance, ‘You’re Gonna Get It’. The latter compensates for the lull in momentum, being as it is a simplistic pre-night-out song that can’t seem to make up its mind whether the titular ‘it’ is an act of aggression or a sexual encounter.
The most impressive thing about ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’, though, is that for all the guest spots from Jam members and Lennon, Gallagher and T.Rex nods, it only ever sounds like Miles Kane. Only two albums into his career, that’s an achievement in itself. This record is a triumph of belief and dogged determination over those people who thought he was a barnacle on the coattails of his famous friend. Much like one of his suits, it’s measured, sharp and extremely well put together. Kane’s present is just as exciting as his past.