Friday, January 26, 2024

Kinks 28: Word Of Mouth and Return To Waterloo

Word Of Mouth found the still-busy Kinks in a state of transition. Founding drummer Mick Avory only played on three tracks on the album, and would be replaced by Bob Henrit, who’d followed Jim Rodford from Argent, via Dave Davies’ recent solo albums.

There must have been no hard feelings, since Mick appeared in the video for “Do It Again”, the album’s first track and lead single. It fades in on a variation of the opening to “A Hard Day’s Night”, and crackles along like a good Kinks single should. The title track has another wonderfully fuzzy riff and high harmonies from Dave, but “Good Day” sounds like a glorified demo. Still, its message of determination, even in the wake of a starlet’s death, is inspiring. Then Dave surprises us with rare political commentary in his “Living On A Thin Line”, and his mild yobbo phrasing works well with Ray’s occasional answering. Ray himself answers with the punky “Sold Me Out”, an angry comment on the same theme.

Following some synth-based wandering, the main riff on “Massive Reductions” sounds horribly dated today; while the song eventually rocks, the subject matter is starting to wear thin. Dave comes back with the angry (again) “Guilty”, but at least he wasn’t singing about aliens anymore. The wordy “Too Hot” has canned horns and some of the calliope sounds from “Come Dancing” disguising lyrics about the workout craze somehow related to more social commentary. After a lot of energy, “Missing Persons” provides sweet relief despite the sad subject matter. “Summer’s Gone” is almost Stonesy in its tempo and Dave’s licks, but there are some clever Beach Boy touches, and we can’t help thinking it’s about breaking up with Chrissie Hynde. We could say the same about “Going Solo”, but closer inspection shows it’s a parent’s plaint about grown offspring.

Even though Word Of Mouth is no masterpiece, it’s still a decent Kinks album, particularly considering how long they’d been at it. (The only bonus tracks on the expanded reissue 15 years later were extended versions of “Good Day” and “Summer’s Gone”.) If it sounds a little distracted, that’s likely because Ray was busy with yet another attempt at melding music and drama.

Though it had nothing to do with another song, Return To Waterloo was something of a Dennis Potter-influenced rock opera, depicting the dreary point of view and visions of a commuter who may or may not be a serial rapist, broadcast in the UK in late 1984, with limited theatrical showing in the US the following year. It’s a bit pretentious but still riveting, and therefore more successful than Pete Townshend’s White City.

Besides writing and directing it, Ray appears briefly as a subway busker, just like in the “Do It Again” video. A soundtrack album—credited solely to Ray, likely because Dave didn’t (or wouldn’t) play on it—runs just under a half-hour, and shares three songs with Word Of Mouth. (They also happen to be the three songs Mick played on. Meanwhile, “Ladder Of Success” and “The Good Times Are Gone” are in the film but not included on the album, probably because they’re sung by actors.)

Following an atmospheric intro, the title track begins as a busk, but soon detours into uncharacteristic yet effective synths. “Going Solo”, “Missing Persons”, and “Sold Me Out” gain a little more insight in this context, while the remaining tracks not only have promise, but work well without a screenplay. “Lonely Hearts” is a lover’s lament, offset by an advice columnist. One of the last lines is “you are far away”, and then we have “Not Far Away”, a rocker “sung” by a young Tim Roth in the film. The doom prophecy in that tune gets a different perspective in the more somber and stately “Expectations”. The techno-pop “Voices In The Dark” is used over the end credits, and pulls the theme of the film back from a response to Thatcherism towards general existential loneliness.

The Kinks Word Of Mouth (1984)—3
1999 Konk CD reissue: same as 1984, plus 2 extra tracks
Ray Davies Music From The Motion Picture “Return To Waterloo” (1984)—3

2 comments:

  1. check Ray Davies 80 Days bootleg CD...incredible songs!!!

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  2. The comments and ratings often given to The Kinks' work leave the impression that they were a band of mediocre musicians who by chance achieved some hits.

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