Friday, September 28, 2018

Kinks 12: Lola

Continuing their tendency of lengthy album titles and unwieldy concepts, the Kinks entered the ‘70s with an album best known for its title song—although said track is far from the highlight of the album. On Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, Ray Davies’ latest obsession is the wicked music industry, delivered in the form of letters home to ma (or schizophrenic rants, you pick). Some country influences poke through, but the music is predominantly rock, not pop, with the key addition of John Gosling on keyboards; Nicky Hopkins had likely become too expensive for Ray to pay what he was worth.
Following a brief intro teaser of a song to be named later, “The Contenders” follows a meaty riff through a statement of purpose for an idealist hoping to make a difference. “Strangers” shows how far Dave Davies had come as a writer, and his wistful perspective provides a nice balance for Ray’s soapbox, particularly with the sarcastic description of “Denmark Street”, the home of predatory sheet music publishers. Luckily, it’s pretty brief, leaving lots of space for “Get Back In Line”, which one must pay close attention to understand the pros and cons of joining the musician’s union. It’s even more sublime when followed by “Lola”, the infamous gender-bending anthem that became one of the band’s most famous songs, even after you’re not 13 anymore. Having seemingly scored with their “hit”, they’re headed to the “Top Of The Pops”, a mini-opera based around a mutilation of the “Louie Louie” riff with an extended break featuring the melody from “Land Of A Thousand Dances”. “The Moneygoround” is another slice of music hall, wherein Ray namechecks the managers and publishers he feels ripped him off.
The “Lola” guitar appears again on “This Time Tomorrow”, with airplane effects illustrating the tedium of the touring treadmill, yet still hopeful for something better. Then it’s acknowledged that he’s “A Long Way From Home”, in the same melancholy arena as “Shangri-La” but not as frightening, and nicely balanced yet again by Dave on the tough and angry “Rats”. The other song everyone knows is “Apeman”, a pleasingly silly plea for simplicity notable for his daring pronunciation of “fogging”, and the second song Ray song in two years that mentions King Kong. He does his best Dave imitation on “Powerman”, with another terrific riff and clever jumps in meter. “Got To Be Free” completes the song begun at the top of the album, and while it’s something of a declaration of independence, it also suggests that the excerpt before “The Contenders” was actually the coda for the song itself; hence the moneygoround begins anew.
Most of the songs on Lola are good enough to stand on their own, and for that, we’ll commit blasphemy and declare it superior to Arthur. Despite the cover’s notation, there never was a “Part Two”, though a case could be made for the soundtrack to the film Percy, based on a novel written by Robyn Hitchcock’s dad (really) about the world’s first penis transplant (really). Despite a few tracks on compilations, the album went released in America until it was included as part of a double-CD deluxe edition of Lola. And a good place for it, too, since it’s not their finest offering, loaded with sterile instrumentals and a borderline Muzak version of “Lola”. However, Ray did offer up some songs that stand well outside this context, too. “God’s Children” and “The Way Love Used To Be” are a little naïve, but both lovely pleas for “going back” to more pastoral times. “Animals In The Zoo” and “Dreams” fit well with the Lola sound and concept. “Moments” is a little cloying, thanks to the outside arrangement, while “Just Friends” is a plodding parody of chamber pop. Strangest of all is “Willesden Green”, and Presley-Cash pastiche sung by bassist John Dalton. (Of course, for Kinks konnoisseurs, the deluxe set is a no-brainer, as both discs are filled up with rarities, including alternate mixes from both albums and the excellent Lola outtakes “Anytime” and “The Good Life”.)

The Kinks Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround (1970)—
2014 Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround & “Percy” Deluxe Edition: same as 1970, plus 30 extra tracks

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