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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 206 - 06/23/13

From head to heart
The Kinks' State of Confusion

Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar time-machine takes a backwards bike ride back to 1983, to check out some pop confusion [Ray being the Confucius of pop? Guess he's more of a 'simplicious' when it comes to pop; earcandy straigth to your head and heart] for the dance floor. Thirty years ago they're still popping around after 20 years in the biz, and the band's quest continued some good 10 years more. Well, some of the boys haven't retired yet.

The Kinks
State Of Confusion
Arista Records

coverpic I've just participated on the second Nordic Kinks Konvention where The Kast Off Kinks headlined. It's an unceremonious band that at the moment includes original Kinks drummer Mick Avory (he left/was forced to leave the band in 1984 after 20 years' service), stand-in (in 1966) and later permanent bass-player (1969-76) John Dalton and keyboard player Ian Gibbons (a Kink from 1979-89 and then again for some years in the mid 1990s; he's also a member of Ray Davies' current band). It was a great opportunity to return to the entire Kinks katalogue. State Of Confusion is the band's 20th studio album. It might not be greatest Kinks hour. But, since both Avory and Gibbons were very much present on the album and it was released 30 years ago in their native UK this moonth, we decided to give it an extra spin. Well worth it. It's one of the band's bestsellers in the USA, made it to no. 12 in the charts over there, only surpassed by Low Budget four years earlier (no. 11) and a US-only Greatest Hits compilation from 1966 (no. 9). Since record sales reached an all time high in the mid 1980s, we might assume State Of Confusion to be one of The Kinks' most massive sellers of all time.

First time I experienced Kinks live was in the summer of 1994. Surely much too late, but it didn't seem that way. The band members were in high spirits and on top form. Ray balanced the beer bottle on his head and charmed everyone in the audience. And the band played as if they really had something to prove, as if this was the first time they played abroad or something. In other words: professional showmanship! It sounded very similar to the title track from State Of Confusion. Rocking and rolling, catchy chorus with shouts and o-o-o-ooo's as backing vocals, very high spirits and up-beat, despite the less than optimistic lyrics:

'Woke up in a panic,
Like somebody fired a gun
I wish I could be dreaming,
But the nightmare's just begun.
There's flooding in the basement,
There's water all around.
There's woodworm in the attic
And the ceiling just fell down.'

And it doesn't get much better...

Other great rocking tracks dominated by brother Dave's rough & ready electric guitar and American oriented stadium singalong-friendly choruses include "Clichés Of The World (B Movie)" (even more disillusioned than the title track, ...expressing his doubts and his fears), "Definite Maybe" (yes, 11 years prior to Kinks-inspired Oasis' debut album of almost the same name; where Ian Gibbon demonstrates his piano abilities) and "Labour Of Love". The latter starts with a distorted guitar rendition of the wedding tune "Here Comes The Bride":

'It's a labour of love, labour of love.
The torments, the worries and whoas,
The battles, the fights, the bruises and bites,
That's the way that a true love grows.
concluded Ray at the time his daughter with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders was born and their relationship was about to come to an end.

The only issue that drags this otherwise solid kollektion of Kinks songs down is the band's very last real single hit, "Come Dancing", originally released half a year prior to the album. It's a merry West Indian tourist-flavoured calypso tune, with steel drum-sounding keyboards and all, very typical and slick of the mid 1980s kind. Very different from the rest of the album and really dreadful if you ask me. I guess it's the only Kinks song I really hate. (Well, "Lola", the second last Kinks hit, from 1970, is a contender. Which means all the great Kinks' hits stem from the 1960s and belong to quite a different league.) But it gave the band a lot of - after all - well deserved attention and is no doubt the main reason why State Of Confusion fared so well on the hit lists. The lyrics of "Come Dancing" on the other hand are very nice, very English and very typical family reminiscences of times gone by, the kind of lyrics Ray Davies is an expert on. I much prefer the other single and dance song of the album, "Don't Forget To Dance", another very English and half-melancholic remainder.

The other ballads, "Property" (to some extent) and "Heart Of Gold" (no, not the Neil Young song), also fare well in spite of some typical-of-the-times and by now old-fashioned sounding keyboards. The latter, with a nice almost folky chorus, was allegedly written to Ray's new-born daughter. It deals with the troubles of a girl growing up because as a child she had lost her father's affection when her younger sister was born. In the end the girl gives birth to a baby girl herself and the narrator assures that the fresh mother, underneath her rude exterior and worries, has a heart of gold. It seems Ray is singing about himself, trying to explain and telling his new born baby not to worry about her father. Here are a couple more rockers, too. Ray is worried because 'the schools and universities are turning out a brand new breed of young conservatives'. He states that revolution used to be cool, but now it's over, in the early days of Maggie Thatcher's reign of the UK. And the song seems about as valid today as it was thirty years ago... Another surprise of the album in addition to "Come Dancing" is the last track "Bernadette", a brand new good old-fashioned but distorted rock'n'roll-number that might have fitted better on The Kinks' debut album 19 years earlier. Dave growls most of the lyrics; funny-funny! Also worth mentioning is the song "Long Distance", another great mid-tempo partly melancholic ballad. Originally it only showed up on the cassette version of the album. It was later included as one of the bonus tracks of CD reissues.

State Of Confusion was the last of the second wave of great Kinks albums, starting with Sleepwalker in 1977, where the band paid most attention to the American market. A, to some extent, pop-punk-inspired rock album about personal and global worries, with some nostalgic and melancholic balladry thrown in for good measure. The band released four more studio albums before family matters became too tense. All of them include some great songs, but on the whole they were disappointing compared to the previous five. [If you're searching the real heydays of the Kinks konstitution, you need to check out the six studio albums between 1966 (Face To Face) and 1971 (Muswell Hillbillies). ...or maybe two more albums and years, up to Preservation: Act 1 in 1973. A nice collection that includes all the Kinky 1960s hits is also mandatory, of course!]

To bring the story up to date, a brand new album by Dave, "I Will Be Me", reached the shops earlier this week, whereas Ray celebrated his 69th birthday two days before the full moon. On 15 June it was 17 years since last the Davies brothers played live together (the final Kinks gig, so far, in Oslo). The same date 17 years later The Kast Off Kinks entered the stage in the same town. With more than competent guitarplayer/singer Dave Clark in front, whose voice occasionally sounded very similar to Steve Marriott's of The Small Faces, and augmented by three brassplayers, The Norwegian Kinky Horns, they simply couldn't fail. They delivered two long and entertaining sets of Kinks hits mixed with several half-forgotten gems mainly from the years when John Dalton was a Kink. "Shangri-La" off 1969's Arthur was maybe the highlight of the evening. We only got two "modern" songs, from the 1980s, "Better Things" and the inevitable "Come Dancing"... Anyways, about time the Davies brothers start to talk to each other again and team up with the Kast Off gang!

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You may also want to check out our Kinks articles/reviews: At The BBC, Dead End Street, Face to Face, See My Friends, Something Else, You Really Got Me.

© 2013 Luna Kafé