What Ray Davies Has Been Up To Since Getting Shot…

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Over in the LA Weekly, Reason's Jesse Walker spins Other People's Lives, the new solo disc by the Kinks' Ray Davies and pronounces it "his best album in at least 22 years" (and considering Davies is 62 years old, that's saying more than it sounds like!). Jesse also underscores a longstanding tension in Davies' work:

I've never been sure how the same fellow could spend a noisy concert quaffing beers onstage and then compose a little ballad in the morning about the coarsening of the culture. You can curse modernity all you want, but what's more modern than a rock star?

Whole review here.

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  1. what’s more modern than a rock star?

    Uh well let’s see. A video star? A rap star? A net star? An American Idol? Other reality TV stars? The drugs and booze fueled flights of genius, with their inevitable ‘going down in flames’ ending (followed by the survivor’s Phoenix like rise) is a quaint (literally, done to death) libretto of a bygone age. Face it Jesse, you’re one of us, the Geritol generation.

  2. I would think a natural songwriter would find it easy to write a ballad about the coarsening of the culture while they have a hangover. Ray Davies has written in dozens of songs what Paul Westerberg wrote in one sentence: Liberty is a lie. (And I love ’em both.)

    Beats the inner drive of a politican who laments the coarsening of the culture while introducing yet another zero-tolerance bill. What’s more corsening than zero-tolerance and bureaucracy?

  3. “‘his best album in at least 22 years’ (and considering Davies is 62 years old, that’s saying more than it sounds like!).”

    Are you suggesting that people think Ray Davies is older than 62 (i.e., that 22 years would be a smaller percentage of his career)? Because otherwise that statement doesn’t make sense.

  4. For my money “20th Century Man” is the most iconoclastic and subversive rock song ever written. It is of course and obscure song and Davies gets no credit for having the balls to write a rock song condeming the “welfare state ruled by bureaucracy”. Instead, those honored as “couragous artists” are in fact the least couragous ones parroting whatever the PC line de jour happens to be.

  5. Just an FYI – According to the man himself in an interview on NPR’s “fresh Air”, the name is pronounced “Day-vez” not “Day-vees”

  6. Cool Jesse, he’s one of my favorites, although I agree that the 22 62 sentence doesn’t make much sense. Maybe you’re hungover? Also, I don’t think any of his albums since Word of Mouth (released 22 years ago) are even in print anymore. Not that that means they’re bad, but it seems the consensus is they are bad. Of course late 80’s production could bury even a great song so who knows. Long live the Kinks.

  7. BaBar: I don’t know if they’re out of print, but the Kinks’ late-’80s albums for MCA are certainly the low point of the band’s catalog (though they do have a couple good songs apiece), and Phobia in 1993 was uneven. On the other hand, I liked the semi-unplugged To the Bone and Davies’ other two solo outings, both of them post-1984.

    But what I was getting at with that comment was that the new CD is a return to a level of quality he hasn’t shown since the Arista years. I actually like it more than Word of Mouth, and in one draft of the article declared it his best album in 28 years (i.e., since Misfits), but I thought it better to gesture to the era rather than pretend you can measure these things with precision.

    Btw, the line about Davies being 62 was Nick’s, not mine. I presume he meant that “at least 22” could conceivably mean much more than 22.

    John: Davies did a great version of “20th Century Man” in concert when I saw him in DC a few weeks ago. But I thought you didn’t like pop songs with political messages…

  8. Jesse,

    Its not the message its the execution that I ussually object to. When well done a great song is a great song. For example, even though its a complete myth that only the poor and less fortunate fought in Vietnam, Fortunate Son is still one of the top ten or fifteen rock and roll songs ever. Most of the time, however, political rock songs are just boring polemics and bad songs.

    It doesnt’ hurt, however, that I generally agree with the sentiment in 20th Century Man, especially the part about “you keep all of your smart modern writers…painters”.

  9. As embarassing as it is to admit, I never listened to Davies that much until you mentioned his show on Hit and Run. This made me think that perhaps I had missed out on something, which of course I had, and I started noising around I-Tunes and found Muswell Hillbillies. Wow, what an eye opener. I can’t believe I had not heard that record all these years.

  10. Glad I can influence your music purchases, John! Now if only I could influence your views on foreign policy…

  11. Hey Jesse, in case you’re still reading this. Great article for LA weekly. I see what you mean by referencing the era, since when you zoom out the Arista years stand as a group of more or less comparable albums. I caught the last night at Irving Plaza and it was an amazing performance. I didn’t really know what to expect having never seen him live, but not only did he deliver the goods, none of his new songs were potty breaks which is saying a lot when you consider his contemporaries. Only wish I could find a copy of To the Bone…

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