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Spotlight on: The Kinks – Something Else

Dr. Spin reviews a Kinks klassic in the first of his 'Spotlight On' series.

by Dr. Spin
September 13, 2002

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Spotlight on: The Kinks – <i>Something Else</i>_Dr. Spin-Dr. Spin reviews a Kinks klassic in the first of his 'Spotlight On' series. The Kinks may be one of the most underrated bands of Rock history. Stuck squarely in fourth behind the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, the Kinks were nevertheless one of the greatest bands to emerge from ‘60’s England. Their influence on the “garage” sound and Punk in general cannot be underestimated, yet some of their best work still remains relatively obscure.

To the vast majority, the Kinks are known for four songs; “You Really Got Me,” the similar sounding “All Day and All of the Night,” “Tired of Waiting,” and “Lola.” Most of those songs were released before 1965; with “Lola” released in 1970. However, this small list completely bypasses what most Kinks fans consider the “Golden Era” for the Kinks; a time when the band was at its most creative and also most troubled.

In 1965, when the British Invasion was at its peak, the Kinks managed to get in trouble with the American Federation of Musicians Union, and were subsequently banned from performing in America for five years. The effect was the Kinks would release some of their best material without giving it the exposure it needed through touring.

Also because of the ban, the Kinks did not receive some of the musical influence their peers did. Rather, the Kinks were forced to draw more heavily on old English dance hall music, and because of this, they created a unique and very “British” sound.

In 1967, the Kinks released Something Else, the band’s seventh album. It is in many ways to the Kinks what Revolver is to the Beatles. Released between the groundbreaking Face to Face album and the conceptual Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else finds the Kinks crafting songs with more mature themes and developing a slightly pessimistic voice that would later dominate their work.

The album starts off cheerily enough; we hear some studio room chatter, then a count-off (similar to Revolver’s “Taxman”). The Kinks then break into “David Watts,” a rollicking jab at classism. Chief songwriter and lead singer Ray Davies sings from the perspective of “a dull and simple lad/cannot tell water from champagne” that envies his fellow classmate; “And I wish I had all that he has got/I wish I could be like David Watts.” Catchy, with its “fa-fa-fa-fa” background vocals, “David Watts” should have been a sizable hit.

Other high points of Something Else are the laid-back “Afternoon Tea,” (an anti-“Good Day Sunshine”) the drinking-song styled “Harry Rag,” and the eloquent “Waterloo Sunset.” “Waterloo Sunset” is probably one of the most beautiful ballads ever written in the Rock era. Ray Davies description of working-class lovers meeting beside a “muddy old river” is brilliant, and worthy of anything ever written by Lennon and McCartney.

However, Something Else does have its low points. While most compositions on the album were written and sung by Ray Davies, brother Dave Davies is allowed several tracks with mixed results. Dave can pen songs just as skillfully as his brother (the second track, “Death of a Clown,” is excellent), but his vocals are an acquired taste and compare only slightly favorable to those of say, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Other songs come across a bit dated, such as the harpsichord-laced “Two Sisters,” the swinging-London sound of “Situation Vacant,” and the dreary “End of the Season.” The Kinks even dip into psychedelia with the druggy “Lazy Old Sun.”

Ultimately, Something Else is the Kinks last hurrah as a sixties pop/rock band. Afterwards, Ray Davies would push the Kinks into more into conceptual albums, waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to his genius.

Something Else is an excellent album, and as important as anything else released in 1967, save Sgt. Pepper. Surely it deserves a better legacy than the general anonymity it and other Kinks albums from this time period have received. If all you know of the Kinks is the very early stuff, or the comeback hit “Come Dancing,” then give Something Else a try. It is an album that grows on you with each listen.

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