These are not the dog days of indie. Arctic Monkeys have turned into a David Bowie tribute band in search of a James Bond film to soundtrack. Franz Ferdinand are still the second most famous Franz Ferdinand and Kasabian have gone from Glastonbury headliners to a group seemingly ashamed of their guitar rock roots. That leaves Miles Kane as the last man standing in a polo shirt. And his latest album, One Man Band, is very indie.
His second album in a little over 12 months, Kane spent Change the Show experimenting quite bravely with northern soul and introducing a palate indebted to the sounds of the sixties that weren’t just the Beatles. It was well-received, if the poorest-selling of his career, which may explain the pivot back to the comfort zone.
Lead single ‘Troubled Son’ – written and performed with Blossoms frontman Tom Ogden – is a picture of things to come. There’s post-Oasis Noel Gallagher riffs and post-Oasis Liam Gallagher scowls into the microphone. It’s the album opener and actually the highlight, as for what it lacks in depth it makes up with a pop of funky energy.
Kane could have done with borrowing some of Ogden’s levity and bubbly world-play but while Scouser delivers everything with earnest conviction, he is also plagued by uptight seriousness he needs to outgrow.
It’s curious to see Kane slip back into the traditional indie jangle after recent collaborations with the likes of Lana Del Ray, soul-singer-turned-punk-rocker Corinne Bailey-Ray and Matt Bellamy of Muse. While many of his mid-to-late-00s contemporaries have filtered off into a myriad of different directions, Miles Kane is going back to where he started, which in its own way, has to be admired.
One Man Band does have attitude aplenty. ‘Never Take Me Alive’ possesses a mean grunt at its heart and a bluesy riff borrowed from The Black Keys. But lyrically, it’s trapped in a time gone by. There are snarled references to Hollywood hero Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way and Robert De Niro and his gangster classic Casino, as Kane casts himself as something of an outlaw hardman.
It’s peak laddish chest-thumping without a touch of self-awareness of irony which, given he has taken his nasally twang from John Lennon, you’d think he’d have a modicum of. His voice is actually the most interesting weapon in his arsenal but seems to lack faith in putting it front-and-centre of his music.
There’s also a song dedicated to Italian football legend Roberto Baggio which, while catchy, is absent of any of the wit of Los Campesinos’ many sports related anthems. “Baggio / You’re showing me the way to go” is a contender for worst rhyming couplet of the year.
One Man Band is short and deliberately snappy and feels like the result of a breathless burst of creativity over a short period of time. The songs are energetic, tight in the sense that they’re composed and structured like songs should be but for a man who has been in the game now for nearly 20 years, One Man Band feels like a regression towards the safe haven of fuzzy riffs and meaningless singalong hooks, especially after the great leap forward of Change the Show. Have an adventure Miles, it’ll be fun.
One Man Band is out now via Modern Sky Records.