Monday, February 11, 2008

Rock 'N' Roll Revisited, Vol. VI

(As will appear in tomorrow's issue of the New School Free Press)

The Kinks
Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround

It's sad how little the Kinks are known, at least in comparison to two of their contemporaries they inspired, the Who and the Rolling Stones. But recently the Kinks got a much-needed boost of popularity thanks to Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. In the movie, "Strangers" and "This Time Tomorrow" are used during climatic scenes, and in choosing the songs to play instead of actual dialogue, it goes to show just how poignant the Kinks are.

Both of those songs are on 1970's Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, which outside of being the longest named album by someone other than Fiona Apple, is also a rock 'n' roll masterpiece.

It's also an album that's particularly relevant today. Much of Lola deals with Ray Davies, lyricist and lead singer, and his utter frustration at record companies and the music industry as a whole. In "Moneygoround," he sings, "There's no end to it, I'm in a pit and I'm stuck in it," referring to the never-ending cycle of where song residuals go.

The Kinks draw on a sense of mature playfulness, which separates them from other bands at the time, like the Small Faces who could never get beyond amateurish lyrics. The playfulness side of the Kinks can be felt in their biggest hit, "Lola," a song about dancing with a woman who turns out to be a man, and includes the great line, "Well I'm not the world's most masculine man/But I know what I am, and I'm glad I'm a man/And so is Lola."

"This Time Tomorrow" is one of the Kinks best songs, and one of my favorite songs of all-time. Davies' voice sounds anxious and torn when he sings, "This time tomorrow, what will we know/Will we still be here, watching an in-flight movie show/I'll leave the sun behind me, and watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by." The rest of the band (Dave Davies, John Dalton, Mick Avory and John Gosling) provides a tender musical background. Try listening to this song when leaving someone you love behind, and you'll understand its power. It's also one of the finest songs ever to begin with the noise of an airplane taking off, like the Beatles' "Back in the USSR."

The rest of Lola has songs about being free ("Intro" and "Got to be Free"), about going back to pre-industrial times ("Apeman") and a simple one about "daytime, nighttime, every day you can hear the music play" ("Denmark Street").

I hate it when most bands reunite because they're usually only a fraction of their former selves—look no further than Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols. But I do hope the Kinks come back together (they're thinking about it) just so that I might have the opportunity to hear "This Time Tomorrow" and the rest of Lola done live.

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