Album Review: Miles Kane – Change the Show.

Miles Kane - Change the Show – The Drift Record Shop

Miles Kane has been a part of the British alternative music scene for over a decade now, putting out everything from indie hits like Come Closer and Inhaler to songs covered in funky pop-sheen like Coup De Grace and even being one half of massive side project The Last Shadow Puppets with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. After so much time and so many achievements it’s easy to see how many artists could begin to slow down. Coup De Grace, his previous album seemed to hint at this for me. A return after a long time away seemed to have Miles reaching for new creative paths that he couldn’t quite pull off. But, after another four years away I was still more than intrigued to see what the Liverpool native had to offer with his fourth solo album; Change the Show.

Tears are Falling opens the album, a track that Kane described as one of the best he’s ever written on Instagram in the build-up to the release. Whether or not that statement is true can be up to the listener but the vocal delivery is far more than I expected and so many levels above anything on the previous album. The track is somewhere in-between a deep cut off Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino and a seedy cabaret performance… and I have to admit it has grown on me after repeat listens. What I find most charming is the way in which it is simultaneously, unmistakably Miles Kane and yet not at all what I expected. This carries over onto track two, Don’t Let It Get You Down, a track that could almost be at home on a Michael Kiwanuka album. The joyous roaring of backing vocals at the start and subsequently throughout the song is a brilliantly catchy reprise that is as infectious as anything Kane has ever recorded. The song can fall a little flat in the verses, at times going nowhere of note, but when the explosive instrumental breaks come around it revitalises the listener every time.

The third track is charming for what it is, an upbeat instrumental with downbeat lyrics and a good feature of Corinne Bailey Rae whose vocals pair with Kane’s surprisingly well. In the context of the start of the album the track has a tendency to pass you by a little bit but it doesn’t detract at all from what you’re experiencing. Track four, See Ya When I See Ya, feels like a modern twist on a McCartney cut from Sgt Pepper. A plodding piano and simple, bittersweet lyrics make for a song that goes hand in hand with the previous track. In fact, the track listing up to this point for the album is pretty spot on, each track bouncing off in one way or another. Track five takes the bouncy McCartney-ism of the previous track and camps it up a bit. Like a fusion between that and prime Elton John as charming as it is it feels like the most by the numbers track on the album up to that point. The lyrics seem pretty unimaginative and the track ultimately never does anything that will blow the listener away or even pleasantly surprise them. Finishing off the first half of the album is Tell Me What You’re Feeling, again a track that really doesn’t take the listener on any sort of journey. It’s a shame that Kane is able to set the listener up so well with the first handful of tracks then let them down in the guts of the album. It’s not that any of the tracks are offensively bad in anyway, they’re not, but it seems undeniable that there is a definite lull around the half way point of the album where Kane seems to revert back to some sort of comfort zone.

We start the second half of the album with Coming of Age, a light piano driven track that feels like it could be being played at a 1950’s dance hall. He manages to walk the line well and the song doesn’t fall into the realms of parody despite coming close a couple of times. He really does captcha the 1950’s feel in a way that very few artists have been able to do and yet still manages to make the song make sense within the album. Track 8, Change the Show, is what Kane highlighted as the track that he is most looking forward to his fans hearing upon release. I can understand with the clear potential for what the song can become when taken to live shows, with anthemic moments throughout. Unfortunately, something about the mix means that this anthemic intent isn’t quite pulled off on the recording. It still makes for a memorable 2:30 but it leaves the listener feeling a little hollow. 

The 50’s melancholia returns on the next track, Constantly, which is a well-executed love song that flexes Kane’s muscles as a crooner more than any other track on the album. Again, the instrumental manages to encapsulate the 50’s pop love song feel impressively, whilst still remaining undoubtedly Miles Kane. The penultimate track, Caroline, rises the bpm a little, and returns to the more upbeat traditions of the first half of the album. A punchy song that’s driven forward by non-stop drums and some of the best lyrics on the album, it serves as a reminder as to the kind of heavyweight songwriter that Kane can be. In fact, the album as a whole is a testament to this. The final track again feels like it could have been on the cutting room floor of Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, not because it lacked anything, but perhaps because it offered too much of a joyous close. Horns blare as the end draws near, reminding me of the ending of I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have by Primal Scream in the way sounds are layered and repeated to create an unforgettable, sing along track and everything that Change the Show was trying to be.

Overall, though the prospect of listening to Miles Kane’s latest album may not have pumped blood through my veins it has unquestionably turned out to be one of the surprises of the year. Yes, it takes a couple of missteps and may not be breaking any barriers but charm is something that I have missed in my pop music for a long time and this album has it in spades.