Miles Kane is a singer. He also plays guitar. He has been known to do both at the same time, but to varying levels of praise. To some he is the new Guitar-Hero, a Mod revivalist, harking back to the days of The Kinks, Weller and 60s beat culture. However to others, he is a joke, a caricature of all that was once unique and revolutionary, just a parody. On paper, it would be hard to disagree with this latter assumption. His fashion sense, haircut and general attitude are so painfully hackneyed, the classic slim suit/boot 60s combo under a Beatles mop of straight black hair (alright he can’t help that – unless he straightens it. What if he straightens it?!) all suggest a degree of targeted mimicry.
Musically, the story is similar. He is either forgetful, or entirely reluctant, as either Kane’s lyrical philosophy is to write down the first rhyme that comes to mind, for fear of him losing it, or he’d just rather be doing something else and thinking up words just eat into time he could be spending trying on polo necks and Fred Perry shirts. So either this problem is unsolvable, or someone should just buy the poor boy a notebook for Christmas – once he’s collected all of The Who albums first, of course.
Point being, theres is perhaps almost Nothing new about Miles Kane’s music, yet he performs it with such bravado, such belief, that it becomes genuinely fascinating (to Me – hell, Us – you’re still reading) subject matter to investigate.
The discussion pivots on two possible explanations: either Miles Kane really believes that he is the man to ‘bring back guitar music’ to the masses, heading up the rebirth of rock n roll, waving the Mod flag as he scooters up the Top 40, parka billowing in the wind; or, he knows that he’s nothing new, perhaps accepts his destiny: to not only play fairly average guitar music to male teenagers unfortunate enough to be born in (probably) about 1998 (rendering them fairly hero-less in contemporary lad culture) or Mod Dads (Mads – coined it) but to do so full in the knowledge that there is perhaps very little artistic integrity to his work.
In the fickle, contradictory, unsubstantiated and whimsical world of The Arts of which trends are often not so much arbitrarily chosen on the basis of one or two critics but often featured for commercial or creative ease (what’s gonna sell well), it becomes all to easy to mock Kane, who’s music, on first listen often appears limpid and valueless. Because even in this bizarre world of indie music, where this seemingly omnipotent yet invisible collective seem to dictate who and what are reputable, heaping scorn on those who dare choose wrong, as much as They (‘The Indie’) would hate to be part of it, there is still a market. Everything’s for sale, honey.
In this age, particularly in this country, we love nothing more than to take down our celebrities, so isn’t Kane’s decision to hammer out a career in what is so risibly Middle of the Indie Road (MIR – coined it), actually a more rebellious, rock n roll attitude: to shun the route of ‘credibility’ (remember, an arbitrary concoction of views and sales). It’s a massive two-fingers up.
Now perhaps we’ve afforded young Miles with too much credit. He may genuinely believe he’s Paul Weller Mk II (if you squint it is hard to tell the difference sometimes), but surely anyone who’s spent about 10 years hanging around with Alex Turner, seemingly the only contemporary pop musician to have received almost universal critical and commercial acclaim (let’s hope he’s terrible at cooking or riding a bike), would know the difference between artist and artisan.
It’s not the case that it’s the nature of the art that prevents merit – pop music regularly sits among the upper echelons of culture – but the comparableness (that should not be a word, but whevs) of Kane’s work to that of a lot of the past 50 years that would indicate he has lifted, whether consciously or through some form of northern cultural 11+ programme (where you have to recite Revolver in it’s entirely in order to buy a guitar), a lot of whatever has gone before.
But, what does this all mean? Well maybe Mr Kane is more intelligent than we all give him credit for. Yes, he is unlikely to win the Mercury Music Prize or a Nobel Pop Prize and I’ll bet you my copy of Quadrophenia he’ll never headline Glastonbury, but he is carving a very successful career. Perhaps we can then infer, somewhere along the line he has rejected opportunities to appeal to a more beard-stroking (6 Music) audience in order to be good at what he does. Perhaps the new album title is his personal mantra. ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ is either the product of a pernicious marketing meeting, aimed at cashing in on a young audience requiring sonic salvation (you cynic, you) or Miles’s attitude. In more boring words, he knows his strengths, and he clings on to them more tighter than he does to Alex Turner’s ankle (unconfirmed).
We’re all hypocrites, all selling out in some form – otherwise we’d all be living under a bridge, not doing an awful lot – so, if you’re gonna do It, why not do It. Isn’t that the lesson of Miles Kane: to unashamedly play to your strengths? Could it be that we actually learn something from Miles Kane, Lad of all Lads, Mod Almighty? Because now, when I think of Miles Kane, I no longer think of a man making indie-pop, weak through his musical clichés, but a man playing to his strengths, and having a bleedin great time.