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Neutral Milk Hotel - On Avery Island Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit the oft-overshadowed debut from indie rock icons, a smaller and more intimate look into the mercurial world of Jeff Mangum.
In the mid-’90s, Jeff Mangum moved into a haunted closet in Denver where he had dreams of women in fur coats drinking champagne, yelling at him to get out of their house. During a snowy Colorado winter, the Louisiana-born songwriter and his childhood friend Robert Schneider set about recording what would become Neutral Milk Hotel’s debut album. They worked feverishly, going out to smoke cigarettes when they hit a roadblock, until, in May of 1995, they had a finished record. The North Carolina indie label Merge scooped up the young band and quietly released On Avery Island the following March.

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Miles Kane - Coup de Grace Music Album Reviews

The louche UK singer returns with an album that thrusts ahead quickly and painlessly but leaves you itching to shower off its overpowering cologne the second it’s over.

So you’ve managed to get into a decent party in Hollywood, the bar is open, the company is starry, life seems fantastic—then suddenly you see a familiar face in the corner. It’s that guy. The voice in your head panics. Oh god, what’s he doing here? This is the Miles Kane effect: Nobody ever asked for him, but he keeps showing up. Perhaps the Liverpool thing is exotic in L.A.? One man’s Scouse hanger-on is another’s future McCartney, apparently. Kane has bristled at the notion that he’s riding the coattails of his best mate, Arctic Monkeys henchman Alex Turner. But it still stands, even if it can be benched at this juncture because he’s found someone else to exploit.

Turner is off celebrating the success of his band’s sixth album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, which sounds closer than ever to his and Kane’s side project, the Last Shadow Puppets, and may imply the end of that frolic. Kane is cast asunder. He’s in crisis. What’s a lad in a world without the other lads? His third LP finds him mooching off the reputation of another post-MySpace British bard, Jamie T. Kane’s new collaborator has, bewilderingly, co-written Coup de Grace, an album that was five years in the offing but only two weeks in the making.

It sounds like it, too, thrusting ahead quickly and painlessly, yet leaving you itching to shower off its overpowering cologne the second it’s over. “Keep it simple and real and you can’t go wrong,” Kane tweeted recently. But Coup de Grace often sounds so rushed as to be crass. Listening to “Loaded” (which was written with Lana Del Rey after an encounter at a show—again, how?), I initially misheard a lyric as “Fuck you like a monkey with my makeup running.” The true line begins, “Funky like a monkey.” That was a mild relief at first, but then my heart sank further upon realizing that the former could as easily have made the cut. Kane recently revealed that Del Rey’s talent took him by surprise, which tells you everything you need to know about how he sizes up women.

Kane’s M.O. has been to wear his scoundrel reputation on his sleeve and thus get away with it. But for all his crimes on Coup de Grace, there’s one line so blindly idiotic it beggars belief: In “Silverscreen,” he imagines his lover being pursued by a Ryan Gosling type. This makes him cross. So he shouts, “Two-faced Johnny, hotel lobby/I won’t go up without you.” Now, cast your mind back to the last time Kane was promoting a record, the Last Shadow Puppets’ 2016 album Everything You’ve Come to Expect, when he propositioned a woman journalist. “So, what else are you guys doing today?” she asked, wrapping up. “Do you want to go upstairs?” Kane replied. He later apologized for his “ill-judged” comment. But since then, he’s backpedaled. “All I can say about it is it was a joke that didn’t get understood,” he insisted in a post-Weinstein interview. “It got me down.” Poor Miles, still dogged by a fruitless advance.

The crux of Kane’s problem seems to be that, somewhere along the way, someone told the 32-year-old he was hilarious. His attempt at a lovelorn lament, “Killing the Joke,” contains the line: “Since you’ve been gone, I’ve left the TV on, let the milk go sour, let the bills pile up/But I know I’m a funny guy.” Yet Kane invites ridicule more often than his wit elicits anything like laughter. “You always look away as they crucify me,” he sings on “Loaded,” criticizing an ex for failing to rescue him. “This is my Adele album,” he’s offered, unconvincingly. Inspired by the end of an year-and-a-half long relationship, he invokes some stylistic role models: Marc Bolan (“Crying on My Guitar”), the Damned (“Coup de Grace”), and—allegedly—the Fall. If only Mark E. Smith, who once vowed he’d get an injunction against Franz Ferdinand for citing the Fall as an influence, were alive to conjure an appropriate insult.

The problem with Kane’s emulation of past performers is that he remains a tourist lost in his time warp, lacking the originality and vocal grit to elevate fandom into innovation. He is (as I’ve said before) a karaoke Rod Stewart. His scream on the chorus of “Cry on My Guitar” is nasal and strained, like he's sucking words through a stubbed cigarette. The song’s lyrics are so lazy in their retromania, they might as well have been written by an algorithm. “I cry upon the strings of my guitar,” he rasps, “and everybody tells me that it’s sh-la-la-la-la oh yeah.” One hopes Coup de Grace really is Kane’s parting shot.

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