Our Country: Americana Act II
Last year Sir Ray of the Davies ironed out some of the kinks in his various stories around America – a love/hate relationship that’s included living there, getting shot there, being banned from playing there, being fascinated by the music and culture, influencing it, staying distant from it. Unfortunately the result was a fucking dreadful album. Well, I thought so anyway. I was quite possibly the only person in the world that thought it, or at least said so. You see Ray Davies is a legend. He wrote so many great songs. One of the most important British songwriters of the post-war era, maybe the most influential – certainly outside of Lennon and McCartney. And you’d easily argue his body of work was the more “British”…
But that’s the material of The Kinks. And only some of it. As the years went on that band and the various versions of it had bad patches too. And Davies’ solo career has been largely awful. Yet the free-pass continues. His middling solo albums in the mid-00s were revered as the return of a legend. Then he got a bunch of superstar ugly bedfellows (Metallica?) to cover Kinks songs. It was awful. Wretched. But, again, free-pass. It’s Ray. He wrote Lola. He’s allowed…
Here’s “act” 2 of Americana – act is right.
Here, making 61 minutes feel like (at least) 91, Davies bores with his spoken-word interludes and serves up more sleepwalking odes to America that sound somehow nothing like his best – or worst – Kinks material and yet also there’s nothing really “Americana” about these pieces beyond the lyrical themes.
No one wants navel gazing from a rich successful jerk.
Ray Davies: it must be his turn. Remember when Bruce Springsteen was untouchable for a while there – and arguably still is, despite a bunch of dreadful albums? Tom Waits too? Nothing of any real merit in nearly 20 years now, probably 30 if anyone’s being honest (because, again, it’s all just an act). And yet McCartney and Elvis Costello are constantly picked on. Both have served up more of worth in the last decade or two than Ray. And yet there’ll be reviews talking this up for its apparent strengths, its reach, for the nostalgia, for the novelty.
It’s simply substandard music from a songwriter stretched and tapped and void of ideas. The playing is pedestrian, it’s often cringe-inducing. And when it’s not it’s simply dull. He even takes a couple of songs from those middling mid-00s albums and fails to improve on them. The real proof, surely, that a once towering songwriter is now an ideas-free zone. Windswept this may be but it falls far away from interesting for sure.
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