Monday, November 14, 2011
The Kinks - Give The People What They Want
By 1980, the Kinks were entering their third decade with a nice arena-size following and the obligatory arena rock posturing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; the Kinks provided a nice, credible contribution to the endless parade of Kansas, Styx, Journey, and any other one-named rock staple next to them on the radio.
You would think that a cynical English coot like Ray Davies would rally against such trappings, and the straightjackets began to appear right around the live album One For The Road. On it, the familiar chords of “You Really Got Me” begin before abruptly stopping. “We’re not going to play that one tonight.” Jokes Davies, only before returning to the iconic song, rushing through the proceedings like the punk rockers he inspired.
But no matter how fast the Kinks may have played the song, they were still the same tunes underneath at all. Davies knew that he was shackled to them for life and the feeling of being a servant to the audience prompted 1981’s Give The People What They Want.
G.T.P.W.T.W. is horrifically marred by dated production, but otherwise it stands as a fine moment in a worthy catalog. The drums sound awful, the vocals are way up while the guitars are neutered farther down in the mix than they should be, considering the defiant tone of Davies’ pointed scorn.
Ray reminisces about the soon-to-be-extinct rock dj right out of the gate, but before the album is through, he has hit on dirty old perverts in the park, murderers, wife beaters, and President Kennedy’s brains exploding out of his head.
It’s tough going on the title track where Davies seemingly thinks that playing “All Day And All Of The Night” is the equivalent to a President getting assassinated, but when he adds the actual guitar riff from that song to the newly penned “Destroyer,” it’s darn near brilliant.
“Met a girl called Lola and I took her back to my place” Davies utters on the opening line, hitting yet another of his legendary characters to this perfectly realized radio friendly tune.
And after a half-hour of the album’s up and down consistency, Davies drops “Better Things,” a wonderfully positive ode that ranks right up with some of his best work. It sets the stage for what should have been an impressive decade of favorites.
But for whatever reason, Give The People What They Want would not only be the band’s last gold record-it was also their last decent full-length effort creatively.