Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As Long As I Gaze On Waterloo Sunset, I Am in Paradise: A Five Song Intro to The Kinks

The Kinks are the great forgotten band. In their day, they were every bit as big as the other post Beatles, British Invasion groups. They hit the same time as The Stones and The Who and were every bit as good. Yet somehow they get lost in the shuffle when great music of that era is discussed. That sucks for Ray Davies, but for it’s a good thing for those of us who consider ourselves smug music snobs that embrace the obscure. We get to be in on the secret.

Now that being said, The Kinks aren’t that obscure. They have a ton of hits that are featured in movies and TV shows and commercials. They have five or six different songs that you already know. You just don’t know that you know them. You Really Got Me (a Time Life “Sounds of the 60’s”staple), Lola (greatest love song to a tranny I’ve ever heard), Well Respected Man (I think this was on Juno), Picture Book (hp commercial), Sunny Afternoon, Dandy, Victoria are all songs you have probably heard somewhere.

But despite the fact that these hits are still recognizable some 35 years after they were recorded, The Kinks still suffer from an unjust anonymity. How many Fallout Boy songs will be well known in 2045? However this presents you with a wonderful opportunity. Because if you fancy yourself as a connoisseur of the Indy music scene, you get to tell all your friends “Hey check out this song by The Kinks. It sounds a lot like The Shins.” Then you’ll be the coolest kid on the block.
All Day And All of the Night - 1964 Single
The combination of horniness and power chords is truly a magical thing. They go so well together. Simple, obvious, raw, aggressive almost hostile. Notice I didn’t say sex. This song is not about sex. It’s about the energy and frustration that comes from wanting to have sex. It’s different.
Waterloo Sunset – 1967 Something Else By The Kinks
This is such a beautiful song. The cherubic harmonies and tranquil tone in Ray’s voice contrast the melancholy lyrics perfectly. It’s wonderful balance of satisfaction and desperation. Contentment and loneliness. I love this song. I have also included a stripped down cover by Elliott Smith. He is just the right artist to capture the hidden pain of Waterloo Sunset.

The Contenders - 1970 Lola vs Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One
Lola Vs Powerman is an album that is every bit the rival to Sgt Pepper, Let It Bleed, Tommy and any other great album of that time. (although I humbly think Tommy sucks) This is a great illustration of how The Kinks are overlooked when placed in their historic context. The Contenders is the opening song. It begins with a cool little blue grassy intro and then punches you in the face with some badass guitar work.

Complicated Life – 1971 Muswell Hillbillies
Muswell Hillbillies is the most American sounding album from this self consciously English band. It has a lot of acoustic, country influences flowing throughout the album. Complicated Life is just a nice alt country sounding ode to anti consumerism. Ryan Adams would be lucky to write a song this good. And I say that as a pretty big Ryan Adams fan.

This Time Tomorrow – 1970 Lola vs Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One
Wes Anderson fans may recognize this song from The Darjeeling Limited. Totally underrated movie, by the way. It’s a simple, repetitive chord progression that adds layers of musical variation and lyrical intensity as it continues. The banjo, the piano and drums all blow my mind when I listen to this.

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