Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This Is Your Song For....September 24th, 2013: Set Me Free by The Kinks

Picture of a dysfunctional band in younger days.

This time on This Is Your Song--it’s back to Ray Davies!

And if you recall, the last time I endeavored to talk about Mr. Davies--a man I have both the utmost admiration for and a large amount of frustration with--I was met with the anger of a number of his fans, who thought I was committing sacrilege by implying that he could be a lazy songwriter.

And to be honest, the song we’re discussing right now could be accused of being lazy. It’s from one of The Kinks’ earliest albums, and it’s fairly simplistic. You would think I would go off on it.

But I’m not going to...because, especially in this world of pop music being overdubbed and autotuned and multilayered to death, there’s something refreshing in a song that’s under three minutes that presents its idea, takes its bow and leaves. This is what pop music is supposed to be--a great hook (and if they knew nothing else--and believe me, they knew lots more--the Davies Brothers knew a thing or two about writing hooks), a great melody and some lyrics that are easy to sing along to. Unlike when Ray gets older and he tries to be meaningful, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, he’s tapping into one of the Primal Themes Of Teenage Angst and hits a bullseye.

Now don’t get me wrong; if the Kinks had not evolved beyond this stage, I’d be sneering at them the way I sneer at The Rolling Stones after Tattoo You. And I’ll be the first to admit that Ray had to get the manipulative, playing-to-the-lowest-common-denominator sludge of ‘Celluloid Heroes’ and ‘Superman’ before he could get to the sublime wonder of State of Confusion and Word of Mouth. But there’s a reason these earliest songs of his work--they’re near perfect little nuggets of guitar-oriented pop rock, the embryo from which one of my favorite musical genres spring from. They deserve their calcification into the playlists of every single classic rock station in the world.

Here’s a video.

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