There is a moment on Miles Kane’s new album, which tells you everything you need to know about where the singer is currently at. “When Johnny and The Silver Beatles had your volume high,” Miles sings, “I feel better than that.” That’s quite a statement for a Merseyside boy to make, but anyone who knows Miles Kane will tell you the last thing he’s doing in the lyric is comparing himself to the Fab Four. Rather, ‘Better Than That’, the song from which that line comes,is testament to the swagger and vitality that course through the whole of album– an album thrillingly and indelibly stamped with its creator’s abiding love for his craft.
Featuring co-writes with XTC’s Andy Partridge, Paul Weller, Kid Harpoon and the album’s producer, Ian Broudie, the new disc teams with the sounds of Mersey beat and glam-rock, and represents a huge step up from Miles’s acclaimed debut, 2011’s Colour of the Trap. Recorded in London, Liverpool and Wales following an intense 18-month period of almost non-stop schedule of riotous sold-out shows and festival appearances, the new album confirms Miles as one of British pop’s most dynamic and compelling artists – and justifies the faith that friends and fans have always had in him.
If one of ‘Colour of the Trap’s’great delights was hearing a great but hit her to overlooked singer finally getting the chance to roar from the rooftops, its follow-up captures that same singer in the process of pinching himself because so many of his dreams have finally come true. There is an infectiousness to new songs such as ‘Give Up’, ‘Taking Over’ and ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ – as if Miles is saying: “This is my vibe,my party. Come and get some.”
“The one thing I wanted for the new album,” Miles says, “was that there had to be no fat on any of the songs – they needed to sound really lean. The blueprint for it, before I'd even gone for the rock'n'roll and glam-rock vibe, was that it had to sound incredibly direct.” Heand Broudie have certainly achieved that. Recruiting the founding member of another iconic Liverpool band as producer was a key move: Broudie speaks the same language, Miles confirms, making the recording process a case of instinct, nods and winks, rather than long-drawn-out explanations of the singer’s aims.You can hear that telepathyin every bar.
“I’d known Broudie for years, on and off,” Miles continues. “I was always seeing him around in Liverpool. But I’d never really had a proper chat with him. And then when we finally did, I said: ‘If you’ve got a free afternoon, let’s get together and have a play’ – you know, sort of ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’. And the first time we did that we had a song – which is ‘Taking Over’; we had that down in the space of an afternoon.”
Miles is similarly enthusiastic when he describes his sessions with Andy Partridge, a legendary figure to so many aspiring songwriters. “My then label boss suggested we get together and see where it went. It took a while because I was away a lot, but I’d been demo-ing new songs and towards the beginning of last year I had a few days off and went down to meet Andy in Swindon. We’d already had a really long chat on the phone,and he’d got where I was at straight away.
“I had this vision that he’d live in the middle of nowhere because he’d told me he had this studio in his garden; I pictured him as this farmer, with this house in a big field. And I got there and it’s this small terraced house, and a shed where he makes music.We just started messing around. And from then on, every two weeks or so I’d nip down there on the train, stay over in this little B&B, and just write and write. I think he’s a genius. He’d always be doing things like showing me chords that I never would have thought of using, or ways of writing. Every time we met up, we’d nail another song. He’s got me doing stuff I’d never have done before – lots of sevenths. He does love a seventh, does Andy.”
While he and Broudie were arranging the album in advance of sessions beginning, says Miles, “We started listening to The Sweet a lot; that song ‘Ballroom Blitz’ is unbelievable, and that whole glam period has had a huge effect on me. I had this sort of glam-rock verse and Beatlesy chorus [for ‘Taking Over’], and we both just went: ‘This is sort of our blueprint, isn't it?’; that really hard-hitting approach. And we really stuck to that vision. Broudie’s got real fire in his belly; he wants it as much as I do.”
The Weller connection came about when the pair met on a radio show. “I did an Xfm Christmas thing and Paul was there,too,” Miles recalls. “I’d been referencing the French singer, Jaques Dutronc, a lot, and Paul came up to me with this book and said: ‘You like this fella, don’t you?’. And a bit after that I mentioned in an interview that he’d like to work with him, and he mentioned that he’d like to work with me, and that was it, really. So off I went down to his studio outside Woking, and it was as instant as it was with Andy. He’s so encouraging, plus he works really hard, there’s no mucking around. I quite like that feeling of being a bit under pressure, and Paul is brilliant for that; it gives you a real kick.”
Miles wouldn’t be Miles without a bit of self-doubt. As he revealed when promoting ‘Colour of the Trap’ (and as all his friends will confirm), he seems to need the smack of uncertainty nipping at his heels. “I do sometimes wonder if that is just part of who I am,” he chuckles,“ and whether I need it to keep striving. This is definitely a more confident album, it knows what it is more than the first record, and I do think it’s going to cement me in terms of how I see myself, where I’m going, who I am, why I’m doing this. But it wouldn’t be me if I was all cocksure about everything.”
Cocksure or not, Miles is raring to go, ready to build on the success of ‘Colour of the Trap’ and to introduce his fans to the snap-and-crackle pop brilliance of ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’. Was there a moment when he finally realised his time had come, I ask. Miles isn’t a natural bragger (he’s too circumspect for that), but, after a pause, he admits:“It was when we were playing the Forum last year, everyone was bouncing around and the place was kicking off. I did think, ‘Okay, I’m really doing it now, I’m on my way’.”
He certainly is. “Don’t be looking at the scenery,” he sings on ‘Taking Over’, “you should be heading up the road.” He has heeded his own warning: the next stage of that journey is about to begin. This is Miles Kane’s vibe. Come and get some.