If there’s one guy who knows the value of a good collaborator, it’s Miles Kane. Thrust from Scouse-rock obscurity to the upper echelons of indie rock notoriety by becoming the retro-bro of Alex Turner in The Last Shadow Puppets, he’s since attempted to consolidate a solo career by co-writing with Turner, Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds, Paul Weller, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Kid Harpoon, Guy Chambers, XTC’s Andy Partridge and a whole host of lesser known singers. Pitbull’s probably been checking his emails on the hour, but for this third album, a chance reacquaintance in LA led to Jamie T (real name Jamie Treays) taking his turn at the Miles tiller. There’s also an appearance from Lana Del Rey, whom Miles might well know from taking the same time machine capsule here from 1956.
Such copious co-writes have hindered Kane in developing a coherent sonic narrative – each record essentially sounds like the collaborator in question trying their hand at Miles’ trademark teen idol rock’n’roll. So, after the largely Broudie-led bubblegum leanings of 2013’s impressive ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’, ‘Coup de Grace’ is a more raw-boned affair, bristling with Jamie T’s streetwise snarl and fuzz-rock frenzy. You can almost sense Treays (also pivotal on guitar) revelling in the chance to rattle out some compulsive synthetic punk and grisly glam on ‘Too Little Too Late’ and ‘Cry On My Guitar’, respectively, without having to come up with any sophisticated wordplay; instead, the intricate flaws and failings of Kane’s doomed pre-album relationship are etched across the lyric sheet like hesitation marks.
Kane, for his part, attacks the record with the determination of an artist starting his third major label deal achingly close to making a significant breakthrough. With a crunch-time punch, he throws everything he’s got at the wall. There are blatant nods to Turner’s Gene Pitney-on-ketamine vocals on the chorus of ‘Too Little Too Late’, the Kasabian-gone-funk-punk title track and ‘Killing The Joke’, an excellent ballad that resembles ‘Imagine-‘era Lennon making a surprise appearance at the Tranquility Base Hotel cocktail lounge. ‘The Wrong Side Of Life’ is impassioned retro-soul rock recalling a groovier Radio 4 or The Gossip, while Kane rides the bucking glam buzzrock of ‘Silverscreen’ with the sort of fervent, breathless barks last heard at an Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster gig. You could easily miss Lana’s backing vocals on the languid ‘Loaded’, so commanding is Kane’s performance.
When you emulate the classics, though, you need to challenge them too, and it’s only in the final pairing of ‘Something To Rely On’ and ‘Shavambacu’ – a kind of prowling jazz T Rex – that Kane and friends find tunes touching on the timeless. Kane’s ante is upped, but ‘Coup de Grace’ still isn’t quite the killer blow.