It’s easy to feel sorry for Miles Kane; pretty much every review you read of his debut ‘solo’ record (we’ll get back to that) will inevitably couch it within the context of his relationship with a certain Arctic Monkey, and their critically acclaimed and successful joint outing, the Scott Walker/Billy Fury influenced The Age of the Understatement. They may even accuse him of riding on coat tails, but what they’re missing is that Miles is clearly very much his own man; it’s likely that Alex Turner took just as much from the experience of making that record as his buddy – potentially even more, given the degree to which this accomplished debut also draws on Kane’s decade of choice.
With The Last Shadow Puppets on the back burner, Colour of the Trap is clearly evidence of a 24-year-old striking out on his own, leaving behind two other bands – not counting the venture with Turner – a supermodel relationship (Agyness Deyn) and embarking out on what must seem, to a degree, like a make or break move. He admits he’s ‘living [his] dream’, but is under no illusions having seen the fickle and capricious ways of the music business – as he asserts ‘Hopefully those little club dates will be rammed out…I want people to fucking ‘ave it and the gigs to be rocking. And I believe I’ve made the record that can make that happen. There’s no more you can do is there?’.
Things certainly kick off with intent; ‘Come Closer’ is a head nodding assault, all driving base, shimmering guitars, machine gun drums and raucous "whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, aaah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah" choruses. It’s the perfect showcase for Kane’s rasping and characterful vocal, a real highlight of the record; just the right mix between self-aware swagger and idiosyncrasy whilst retaining enough technical ability to ensure it doesn’t grate. We segue effortlessly into ‘Rearrange’, another strong song and a well-placed counterpoint to the album’s opener, as delicate guitar fingerpicking and a more thoughtful approach contrast the balls-out opener. Other highlights include ‘Counting Down The Days’, an example of Kane’s ability to update the genre and period he so clearly loves, in this case with breaks reminiscent of Dan the Automator’s influence on the record (although admittedly he didn’t work on this track), and ‘Inhaler’, the second single off the record and a nod to a lesser known element of Kane’s record collection, The Music Machine.
As noted there are other influencers at work here: Alex Turner co-wrote six of the 12 tracks on offer, Gruff Rhys co-wrote and provided backing vocals on four, Noel Gallagher stopped by the studio during mixing to add backing vocals on the noteworthy ‘My Fantasy’ and the lesser known Clémence Poésy (think In Bruge or Harry Potter) offers up some breathy Birkin/Bardot-esque Gallic charm on duet ‘Happenstance’. But this is very much Kane’s own album; whether conscious or not he has succeeded in utilising partnerships to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, and that doffs its cap to the world of vintage pop without feeling derivative. Even in its most referential moments, as when calling to mind Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ on ‘Better Left Invisible’ it is the sound of a confident yet respectful songwriter, not someone on crutches.
That said, it’s not all killer; a song or two in the final third fails to match up to the calibre of the rest, and at times the lyrics can descend into mild cliché, but overall it’s evidence of a young man with a great understanding and love for a particular period giving it his best shot. It would be churlish not to applaud that, although whether the public or the press will allow such stylistic deference to continue beyond Colour of the Trap is a different story.
7James Atherton's Score