Friday, July 27, 2018


It's hard to get too excited about another Davies solo album, particularly a Part 2, when he's out fanning the flames for a Kinks reunion yet again. This isn't the first time it's supposedly been happening, but there did seem to be a little more substance behind it, confirmations of phone calls and interest from all three surviving members, if they can stomach being in a room together. Or, it all could have been Davies drumming up headlines to bring attention to his latest solo album. He's always been a bit of an actor.

And a wannabe playwright too. He's been writing concept albums since the late '60's, often with large autobiographical content, or at least based on his family experiences. He's awfully nostalgic too, and was so back then too, writing about his sisters and his childhood and his London home. Then came his fascination with America, and his Muswell Hillbillies concept (having his Muswell Hill neighbourhood taken over by U.S. hillbilly culture). That behemoth of a country has loomed ever larger in his life, as his band effectively moved there in the '70's and became arena rock stars, and then from the '90's on, Davies lived there, got shot there, and got completely obsessed.

That's culminated in Americana Act I and now II, where he describes to us his journey, looking for the source of the music and culture that inspired him as a kid, hitting the long road through middle America as a rock star, and finding himself at the end of the search. On paper, it seems like it might be a winner, especially since once again he's engaged The Jayhawks as his backing band. Trouble is, the story keeps getting in the way of the songs. From the spoken word segments to the conceptualized lyrics, somewhere all the fun got squeezed out. There's no memorable hooks or choruses. The most interesting is a song about a run-in with a groupie in Minneapolis who has the best of him, although he blatantly makes the song sound like a classic Pretenders cut. This is where I remind you that Davies and Chrissie Hynde had a relationship, and Indianapolis, her hometown, sounds a lot like Minneapolis. It's a rare energetic track for the record, but it also seems like a cheap shot too.

The story ends with Davies leaving New Orleans after being shot, wiser and a winner really, because he found his music source, paid his dues and survived. He returns to the Muswell Hillbillies theme with the closer Muswell Kills, describing how he'd avenge himself if he ran into that shooter again. Like most of the Davies concept albums, including Preservation Acts 1 and 2, Schoolboys In Disgrace and Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One (there was no part two, thankfully), this is a story that is just not that entertaining to follow, and doesn't have much to offer as individual songs, either. If getting The Kinks back together will mean he returns to some basic rock writing to let brother Dave bash away on guitar and Mick Avory do the same on drums, now that will get me excited.

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