Monday, November 15, 2010

I'd Love To Turn You On #22 - The Kinks - Something Else By The Kinks

When going through the list of universally acknowledged rock and roll masterpieces, one will usually come across The Kinks' 1968 album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society. However, often lost in the praise heaped upon Village Green is the masterpiece that came before, 1967's Something Else By The Kinks. The title can be looked at in a couple of different ways, as in "oh, here's something else" or "WOW! that's really SOMETHING ELSE!" What's clear is that in the psychedelic summer of love year of 1967, The Kinks really were doing something else compared to their rock and roll peers. They had left behind the blues and R&B-based rock of their early years, but instead of following the psychedelic path of Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd and the San Francisco scene, they turned to traditional British music hall and folk stylings. It also helped that Ray Davies was writing some of his very best songs.
The opener, "David Watts," is the closest they come here to the heavy-riff guitar rock on which they initially made their name. Yet the lyrics offer a contrasting mood as they detail a schoolboy's jealous obsession with the popular athlete of the title. These attitudes of vulnerability and self-doubt were new to rock and roll at the time and would set the stage for many introspective songwriters such as Morrissey and Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. The band takes its biggest musical left turn on the bossa nova flavored "No Return." Davies originally wrote this song for bossa nova star Astrud Gilberto. The music hall influence comes through on the jaunty "Tin Soldier Man" and the wistful "End of the Season." "Harry Rag" is a particularly British song that I had to look up on wikipedia to find out just what it was all about. "Situation Vacant" is a phrase that sounds stark and grim to us yanks, though it's really just what the Brits use for "help wanted" (which also can sound a bit grim when you think about it).

One of the most striking songs on the album is "Two Sisters," an intriguing look at a sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is certainly something Ray and his guitarist brother Dave knew a thing about. Dave contributes a pair of songs to Something Else and they may just be his two best. "Death of a Clown" is a folk-rock character study with a great sing-a-long chorus. "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" is an infectious rocker that should be required learning for garage bands everywhere.
The album concludes with the masterful "Waterloo Sunset," easily one of the greatest pop songs of the rock era. A beautiful tale of a young couple finding quiet time in the midst of a sprawling urban landscape, this may just be Ray Davies' finest work. It's also a fitting finale for an album of quiet yearnings and small pleasures, proving that great music can be made from things other than volume and bombast. Something Else is certainly not your typical rock masterpiece, but it is a collection of excellent songs that work both individually and as a complete work. It led off a string of fantastic Kinks albums that are all worth checking out as well.
- Adam Reshotko

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