|"Now where did I put my creativity?"|
And there's no denying whatsoever the role Ray Davies has in the history of rock music. His band The Kinks should rightfully be considered part of the Holy Trinity of 60's Britpop, and should be looked upon as one of the Grandfathers of my beloved power pop. When he's good--large chunks of Kontraversy, Something Else, Village Green, Arthur, that 80's revival of interest heralded by State of Confusion and the highly underrated Word of Mouth--there is simply no one as good a songwriter as Davies....
However, the sad thing is that the bulk of Davies' work is at its best lazy and at its worse downright, cringe-inducing awful. The smirking obviousness of Low Budget and Muswell Hillbillies, the imitativeness of Destroyer, even the downright radio baiting of Think Visual paints a picture of Davies' muse as fickle, callous and even cruel in its reduction of his vision. I sometimes wonder if Ray needed the out and out hostility of his brother Dave (or, during the 80's, his similarly conflicted romance with Chrissie Hynes, the disintegration of which led to both the adorementioned Word of Mouth and his first solo album, Return To Waterloo) to keep his tendency to muse on English cliches and obvious wordplay in check and drive him to greater heights...because when he's on his own, Ray Davies can frequently fall into a rut. Witness how, of the albums that are considered his post-Kinks solo career, four of the six albums are either composed whole or in part of previously released, reworked Kinks material.
This is from Davies' last solo album composed of original songs, 2007's Working Man's Cafe, and--unlike many of the other tracks on this otherwise middling-to-okay album--it's indicative of the obvious, imitative part of Davies' brain. It's one of an increasingly large body of songs by older rockers railing at the increasingly digitized world, and it's....not very insightful. While it mines the themes of alienation that Davies has found gold in before, there's none of the wonderful wordplay and sarcasm that makes Davies a rock maven here. Instead, it's a crotchety guy complaining that because we're so dependant on computers, no one listens to him. I find it fascinating how Davies cites a lot of older forms of communication--writing to City Hall, calling authorities--and then whines that the breakdown of new technologies results in no one listening to him, his complaints stuck in the system. Even the melody seems tired, as if it was slightly tweaked from a previous Kinks composition...from the 60's, naturally, since it'll evoke warm fuzzies of nostalgia from us older fans while seeming coolly retro to the newer fans.
Since the release of Working Man's Cafe, Davies has released an album composed of choral arrangements of Kinks classics and the true kiss of creative death, an album where he re-recorded Kinks classics with a selection of modern, new artists like Mumford and Sons to prove how 'with it' and 'influential' he was. And the ironic thing is how if he hadn't dove into the same 'see, we mattered' pool that Art Aleakis has been swimming in, his reputation might have improved--instead of having it tarnished with the crappy green fakey-gold patina of greed, opportunism and desperation.
I love Ray Davies, and will always honor his songwriting talents for what they were and for the way he helped shape power pop. But stuff like this makes me want to scream at him. It's a dichotomy I have grown to live with.
Here's the song in the popular 'shot of the album cover' format....