Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kinda Kinks

I got into the idea of the Kinks for a while - they have some huge concept records that helped define the late Sixties rock album era with lots of hummable songs and meaty stories. I dove in for a minute but I never made it past the shallow end. Kinda Kinks is the only one I have that's not from that period (it's earlier - their second, I think), and it's kinda great. Smart guys punk roots, you know? Stones Beatles Who Kinks.

The best songs on this record - "Tired of Waiting" and "Look for Me Baby" - transcend the rhythm & blues template with bizarre, mournful melodies and organic logic that answers only to itself. The rest is hookless gritty R&B rockers and a couple of intimate acoustic numbers ("Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" and "So Long") that leap out of the past. Their version of "Dancing in the Street" is a little polite but Ray and Dave sing a little dirty so it's all good. The undistinguished blues numbers are what make it punk, dog.

The photo on the cover is truly stunning, though. The solid blocks of color and echo patterns in the outfits, the background, the expressions, the tight jeans, the... riding crop? I'm floored. I learn from this guy that it comes from a widely used photo shoot. A moment in time. A perfect clothes, green grass, dudes that rule the world moment.

(Side note. These guys seriously all look the same. There are two brothers, Ray and Dave, and then there's Pete and Mick. It just took me like twenty minutes on Wikipedia, Allmusic, and Google Image Search to determine that Ray and Dave are in the middle (Ray on the left) and Pete's on the far left and Mick's on the far right. Pete and Mick are way too similar. And another thing! How am I supposed to keep track of all the Micks in all the British bands? Even the new bands that come out, like 60% of them have a Mick. If you asked me what band Mick Avory was in, I would have been like, I dunno, Herman's Hermits? No wait, it's Arctic Monkeys, right?)

So it turns out the copy I have is a late-Sixties reissue by the bargain-label subsidiary, Marble Arch, of the original label, Pye (originally a television and radio manufacturer). The original, more well-known cover isn't as stunning, but it's got its own thing going on. A friend of mine who runs a great record store pointed out that the body language dramatizes the legendary, profound rivalry between brothers Ray and Dave, and the suits look great and arguably fit the Brit-blues on the record better than the dandy pastels of the reissue.

Either way, the focus is on the guys and their personality. It's a BAND. It's not obvious now, but the idea of a "rock band" was new in 1965. Newer, even, than the idea that music can be consumed as a digital file is now. That's part of the excitement, part of the story. Look how the world has gone by! Can you imagine, really feel, what 1965 felt like? Forty-eight years ago. Computers meant things like "mainframes" and "punch cards" and these regular-ass British guys had their minds blown by stuff like Chuck Berry, which was only as old then as Rihanna is now. They all answered with their artified R&B, and the British Invasion turned into a thing, tons of money changed hands for RECORDS (yeah man!), and the whole mindset of the culture was on albums and art and somehow, maybe cause of all the money, the definition of musical talent shifted. The fingers roaring on the guitar strings, the direct approach, subtlety in the construction but blasting the delivery. These guys were YOUNG! What they did was IMPORTANT! And I'm only half ironic when I say that. Stuff that young people do is the most important, because they haven't turned on the filters, haven't stopped saying the pointless stuff.

So here we are. The clothes we're wearing now look kinda like what those guys had on then: the tight red jeans, the yellow zip-up, the turtleneck. The hairstyles are even kinda right on too. Times have changed, though. Who's going to tell you what's vital? In 1965 it was a former television manufacturer. Now it's the Social Network. Both pushed and blown by the winds of actual Youth. The resilient Band is still kicking but it had to make room for the Singer-Songwriter, the DJ, the Rapper, the Diva. Professionals and accidental geniuses. These guys made the record for then, but we still have it now. Their lives are over but that moment gives us strength to contemplate our new reality.

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