This is the type of record few artists make. Each song is carefully crafted, the lyrics are marvelous, and the music is varied and catchy. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that only happened with songwriters from a different generation, but whatever the reason, this is one of the best of albums so far in ’06.
Davies is, of course, one of the founders of the Kinks, and recently, things have been a bit rough. Some of the songs here reflect that, with messages about life and what you do with it. “After the Fall” is a Davies-esque ballad that at first sounds dour, but ultimately becomes hopeful. “Is There Life After Breakfast” has a typically witty, sardonic Davies lyric. “Stand Up Comic” is a bossa nova of sorts, again with a lyric about where the world’s at, with (like many songs here) acoustic guitars and crunchy electrics that blend wonderfully, played by Davies and Mark Johns. And while there’s not a lot of eye-raising soloing on this album, the guitars provide the framework throughout. For instance, “Creatures of Little Faith” has an intro based on pretty, dissonant chords before crunchy guitar mixes seemlessly with Leslie’d guitar parts. It’s a great-sounding batch of songs, too.
Despite Davies’ time in New Orleans, there’s no blues or jazz here. It sounds modern, but a hint of past music is also there. It’s all rock and roll of a very English nature. In short, it’s very Ray Davies-style rock. Songs like “Next Door Neighbor,” with its English dance hall sound and clever lyric serve as stepping stones from old-school Kinks music to Ray’s first solo outing.
Safe to say Ray’s getting a little long in the tooth, but you’d never know it from this ambitious record. And while I love the Kinks, I was not prepared to like this disc so much.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’06 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.