Other People's Lives – Ray Davies
CD Review by Brian McAlley

3/2006


         



Track listing
1.
Things Are
Gonna Change
(The Morning After)
2.
After The Fall
3.
Next Door Neighbour
4.
All She Wrote
5.
Creatures of
Little Faith
6.
Run Away From Time
7.
The Tourist
8.
Is There Life After Breakfast?
9.
  The Getaway (Lonesome Train)
10.
  Other People's Lives
11.
  Stand-Up Comic
12.
  Over My Head
13.
  Thanksgiving Day

Label: V2 Ada
Release Date:
February 21, 2006

 

   

Ray Davies has been one of the most versatile and innovative musical gurus of the past 40 years. (I hate using the word genius, even though it could very well apply here) As the driving force behind The Kinks, one of Britain's most innovative and influential bands, Davies has created some of the rock era's most memorable, entertaining and thought-provoking music. It's been over 10 years since the release of the last Kinks album, but during that time Davies has kept himself busy with various other projects including the writing of his semi-fictional 1995 memoir, X-Ray, plus a volume of short stories from 1998 entitled Storyteller. He also performed in a number of solo concerts, where he played classic tunes by The Kinks, read from his books, told stories and showcased new songs.

Now Mr. Davies is back with the release of "Other People's Lives," his first official solo album, and it may arguably be the most satisfying musical work of his career. Davies pulls out all the stops and draws from the vast harmonic pallet that he utilized to paint all the brilliant material for The Kinks. First and foremost, he's an excellent lyricist who has a knack for conveying a humorously entertaining or thought-provoking narrative every time, but also his ability to construct a melodic masterwork on every track is very evident on this disc. You can't help but get caught up in the sweeping melodies, riffs, hooks and bridges that carry these well-crafted tunes through from beginning to end.

The opening number, "Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After)" really hits home with a tale about alcohol abuse, it's adverse effects, and the will to recover. This dramatic tune kicks off the album with a solid studio band carrying Davies through some of his darkest lyrics ("The barrier we cross is somewhere between heaven and hell, but the world will never change, so we must dig inside and crawl outside ourselves"). "After The Fall" follows with a similar theme, addressing personal tragedy with the promise of a brighter future ("After the fall is over, there'll be a better day"). There's a bit of irony to this tune as it seems inspired by Davies' real-life encounter with a mugger and his gun back in 2004 ("I just had a really bad fall, and this time it was harder to get up than before"), but the song was actually written in 2002.

Along with the introspective material on this disc, there's also an ample amount of familiar, Davies-style dry wit and humor, which is evident on tracks like "Next Door Neighbour," a throwback to the style of The Village Green Preservation Society with it's breezy melody and laid back horn section, "Is There Life After Breakfast?," an uplifting, tongue-in-cheek look at making it through the day, and "Stand-Up Comic," an entertaining, yet biting piece that reveals the darker side of being a low-brow comedian.

Davies has always been an imaginative storyteller and he continues in that tradition with songs like "All She Wrote," a tune (sung over an acoustic backing which explodes into a powerful rock anthem) about receiving a breakup letter that turns out to be a suicide note, "Creatures of Little Faith," an all-to-familiar tale about people facing domestic problems resulting in a lack of faith between both parties (Davies' sense of humor shines through with lines like: "You caught me with my pants down, but I was only taking a shower"), and "Over My Head," an interesting portrait of a man caught up in a trying relationship, set to an infectious melody with sweeping backup harmonies. There's also a bit of lighthearted cynicism in tunes like "The Tourist," where he describes vacationers in New Orleans as "Checking out the slums with my plastic Visa," (ironically written before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina) and "Thanksgiving Day," where he takes a bewildered look at the American lifestyle with it's traditions and myths.

Simply put, this is a brilliant album. Davies has always been a very inventive musical force, and "Other People's Lives" is a welcome addition to his already impressive resume. It embodies some of the most innovative and satisfying pop/rock currently on the planet and should be an essential addition to any rock music collection.

 
       


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