Friday, November 12, 2021

Kinks 23: Misfits

1978 found several veteran British invasion bands reacting to both their longevity as well as the generation gap. The Stones and The Who both faced their mortality and vitality straight on, and so did Ray Davies. While the Kinks managed to maintain a certain cachet among the young punks—the Jam’s cover of “David Watts” appeared as a single and again as an album track around this time—the band was fractured at this point, with John Gosling and bass recruit Andy Pyle easing out of the lineup. Even drummer Mick Avory couldn’t be bothered to make many of the sessions for the album that became Misfits; some of the tracks feature veteran session man Clem Catini.
Still, a contract was a contract, and Ray dutifully wrote a new batch of songs that weren’t tethered to an overall concept. The title track is a gentle celebration of those not like everybody else, with a hook repeated by several instruments—in all, a well-constructed track. Unfortunately, “Hay Fever” is a fairly dopey rocker lamenting seasonal allergies, and we’re pretty sure there’s not a clever subtext meant by “all the pills and the powders”. The American version of the album follows with the rocking “Live Life”, one of two overtly political songs on the album. This one is a plea for sanity amid times of social and racial unrest; chances are it was swapped with the less subtle character that narrates “Black Messiah” on side two, for fear we wouldn’t get the joke. (Plus, the UK mix of “Live Life” is longer.) The mood turns gentle again for “A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy”, another of Ray’s periodic explorations of whether the power of music was enough to sustain him or his fans—possibly influenced by Elvis Presley’s death the year before. Oddly, it’s followed by “In A Foreign Land”, something of a lyrical cross between “Apeman” and the desire to be a tax exile.
“Permanent Waves” finds Ray back at the doctor, who prescribes a new hairstyle to cure his current ills. It’s not a winner, but showcases some of the latest synth technology. Even without the lyrical content, the aforementioned “Black Messiah” is a strange musical mix of bluebeat (too slow for ska, too fast for reggae) with the kind of New Orleans horns abandoned three or four albums ago. “Out Of The Wardrobe” is even more a defense of transvestism than “Lola”, bringing it into the lives of “ordinary folks”, and could well be an LGBT anthem today. Dave Davies finally gets his requisite solo spot in “Trust Your Heart”, matching a soaring melody with power-chord riffing for a nice distraction. It ends rather abruptly, and then we get the arty power chords that began the motivation anthem “Get Up”.
Misfits is mostly harmless, so it goes in the good pile. It’s not a classic by Kinks standards, but still a worthy chapter in Ray’s ongoing opus. (The expanded CD preserves the UK sequence of the album, bolstered by three single edits, including the shorter US mix of “Live Life”, and the standalone “Father Christmas” single, a suitably sardonic view of the modern holiday and still a perennial radio favorite.)

The Kinks Misfits (1978)—3
1998 Konk CD reissue: same as 1978, plus 4 extra tracks

No comments:

Post a Comment