England - Full Moon 206 - 06/23/13
From head to heart
The Kinks' State of Confusion
Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers'
corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar time-machine takes a backwards bike ride back to 1983, to check out some pop confusion [Ray being the Confucius of pop? Guess he's more of a 'simplicious' when it comes to pop; earcandy straigth to your head and heart] for the dance floor. Thirty years ago they're still popping around after 20 years in the biz, and the band's quest continued some good 10 years more. Well, some of the boys haven't retired yet.
State Of Confusion
I've just participated on the second Nordic Kinks Konvention where The Kast Off Kinks headlined. It's an unceremonious band that at the moment includes original Kinks drummer Mick Avory (he left/was forced to leave the band in 1984 after 20 years' service), stand-in (in 1966) and later permanent bass-player (1969-76) John Dalton and keyboard player Ian Gibbons (a Kink from 1979-89 and then again for some years in the mid 1990s; he's also a member of Ray Davies' current band). It was a great opportunity
to return to the entire Kinks katalogue. State Of Confusion is the band's 20th studio album. It might not be greatest Kinks hour. But, since both Avory and Gibbons
were very much present on the album and it was released 30 years ago in their native UK this moonth, we decided to give it an extra spin. Well worth it. It's one of the
band's bestsellers in the USA, made it to no. 12 in the charts over there, only surpassed by Low Budget four years earlier (no. 11) and a US-only Greatest Hits
compilation from 1966 (no. 9). Since record sales reached an all time high in the mid 1980s, we might assume State Of Confusion to be one of The Kinks' most massive
sellers of all time.
First time I experienced Kinks live was in the summer of 1994. Surely much too late, but it didn't seem that way. The band members were in high spirits and on top form.
Ray balanced the beer bottle on his head and charmed everyone in the audience. And the band played as if they really had something to prove, as if this was the first time
they played abroad or something. In other words: professional showmanship! It sounded very similar to the title track from State Of Confusion. Rocking and rolling,
catchy chorus with shouts and o-o-o-ooo's as backing vocals, very high spirits and up-beat, despite the less than optimistic lyrics:
'Woke up in a panic,
Like somebody fired a gun
I wish I could be dreaming,
But the nightmare's just begun.
There's flooding in the basement,
There's water all around.
There's woodworm in the attic
And the ceiling just fell down.'
And it doesn't get much better...
Other great rocking tracks dominated by brother Dave's rough & ready electric guitar and American oriented stadium singalong-friendly choruses include "Clichés
Of The World (B Movie)" (even more disillusioned than the title track, ...expressing his doubts and his fears), "Definite
Maybe" (yes, 11 years prior to Kinks-inspired Oasis' debut album of almost the same name; where Ian Gibbon demonstrates his piano abilities) and "Labour Of Love". The
latter starts with a distorted guitar rendition of the wedding tune "Here Comes The Bride":
'It's a labour of love, labour of love.
The torments, the worries and whoas,
The battles, the fights, the bruises and bites,
That's the way that a true love grows.
concluded Ray at the time his daughter with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders was born and their relationship was about to come to an end.
The only issue that drags this otherwise solid kollektion of Kinks songs down is the band's very last real single hit, "Come Dancing", originally released half a year
prior to the album. It's a merry West Indian tourist-flavoured calypso tune, with steel drum-sounding keyboards and all, very typical and slick of the mid 1980s kind.
Very different from the rest of the album and really dreadful if you ask me. I guess it's the only Kinks song I really hate. (Well, "Lola", the second last Kinks hit,
from 1970, is a contender. Which means all the great Kinks' hits stem from the 1960s and belong to quite a different league.) But it gave the band a lot of - after all
- well deserved attention and is no doubt the main reason why State Of Confusion fared so well on the hit lists. The lyrics of "Come Dancing" on the other hand
are very nice, very English and very typical family reminiscences of times gone by, the kind of lyrics Ray Davies is an expert on. I much prefer the other single and
dance song of the album, "Don't Forget To Dance", another very English and half-melancholic remainder.
The other ballads, "Property" (to some extent) and "Heart Of Gold"
(no, not the Neil Young song), also fare well in spite of some
typical-of-the-times and by now
old-fashioned sounding keyboards. The latter, with a nice almost folky
chorus, was allegedly written to Ray's new-born daughter. It deals with
the troubles of a girl
growing up because as a child she had lost her father's affection when
her younger sister was born. In the end the girl gives birth to a baby
girl herself and the
narrator assures that the fresh mother, underneath her rude exterior and
worries, has a heart of gold. It seems Ray is singing about himself,
trying to explain and
telling his new born baby not to worry about her father. Here are a
couple more rockers, too. Ray is worried because 'the
schools and universities are turning out a brand new breed of young
conservatives'. He states that revolution used to be cool, but
now it's over, in the early
days of Maggie Thatcher's reign of the UK. And the song seems about as
valid today as it was thirty years ago... Another surprise of the album
in addition to "Come
Dancing" is the last track "Bernadette", a brand new good old-fashioned
but distorted rock'n'roll-number that might have fitted better on The
Kinks' debut album 19
years earlier. Dave growls most of the lyrics; funny-funny! Also worth
mentioning is the song "Long Distance", another great mid-tempo partly
Originally it only showed up on the cassette version of the album. It
was later included as one of the bonus tracks of CD reissues.
State Of Confusion was the last of the second wave of great
Kinks albums, starting with Sleepwalker in 1977, where the band paid
most attention to the
American market. A, to some extent, pop-punk-inspired rock album about
personal and global worries, with some nostalgic and melancholic
balladry thrown in for good
measure. The band released four more studio albums before family matters
became too tense. All of them include some great songs, but on the whole
they were disappointing
compared to the previous five. [If you're searching the real heydays of
the Kinks konstitution, you need to check out the six studio albums
(Face To Face) and 1971
(Muswell Hillbillies). ...or maybe two more albums and years, up
to Preservation: Act 1
in 1973. A nice collection that includes all the Kinky 1960s hits is
also mandatory, of course!]
To bring the story up to date, a brand new album by Dave, "I Will Be
Me", reached the shops earlier this week, whereas Ray celebrated his
69th birthday two days before
the full moon. On 15 June it was 17 years since last the Davies brothers
played live together (the final Kinks gig, so far, in Oslo). The same
date 17 years later The
Kast Off Kinks entered the stage in the same town. With more than
competent guitarplayer/singer Dave Clark in front, whose voice
occasionally sounded very similar to
Steve Marriott's of The Small Faces, and augmented by three
brassplayers, The Norwegian Kinky Horns, they simply couldn't fail. They
delivered two long and entertaining
sets of Kinks hits mixed with several half-forgotten gems mainly from
the years when John Dalton was a Kink. "Shangri-La" off 1969's
Arthur was maybe the highlight
of the evening. We only got two "modern" songs, from the 1980s, "Better
Things" and the inevitable "Come Dancing"... Anyways, about time the
Davies brothers start to
talk to each other again and team up with the Kast Off gang!
Copyright © 2013 JP