Thursday, December 20, 2007

No. 288: Something Else by the Kinks

Band: The Kinks
Album: Something Else by the Kinks
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The Kinks turn towards more introspective rock from the mode heyday was coming to a head on "Something Else."
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Again, this record never hit in the U.S., likely due to the fact that the Kinks were in the U.S. when it came out.
Best song: "Waterloo Sunset." That's it.
Worst song: "Tin Soldier Man" isn't where the other songs are.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

I'm not really sure as to why the Kinks were banned from the U.S. for four years, but they were. I used to wonder why the band was never as popular as The Who or Stones, but that makes perfect set. The band wasn't in America, basically, at all, so they couldn't grow their popularity in the biggest music-buying nation in the world for four years.

So, uh, that makes sense.


Nevertheless, the record has some decidedly British stuff on it, from the album opener "David Watts" to "Afternoon Tea" to, maybe, the best song by the band, "Waterloo Sunset." The Dylan-esque "Death of a Clown" also appears on the record, easily Dave Davies' best song, though another "Something Else" song, "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" gives it a run for its money. All great songs.


But, really, this album is all about two words: "Waterloo Sunset."

"Waterloo Sunset" is one of the best melancholy songs ever written, if not the best. The story of a saddened man sitting by the Waterloo Tube Station, the song puts into words the forlorn lonely man as lovers pass by his view.

As is Ray Davies' way, the song features a fantastic character sketch of the famous couple, Terry and Julie, as they go about their (presumed) date. Few songwriters are able to paint a picture as vivid as Davies is and "Waterloo Sunset" is, probably, his greatest work.

In 2004, a radio station named it "Greatest Song About London", while Time Out magazine named it the "Anthem of London". Having only been in the London airport, I can't speak to that, but of the songs I've heard about London, it is easily the best.


Is "Something Else" a great record? It's not as easy as the songs we all know from the band, but it's worth the effort.


Anonymous said...

I think Rolling Stone's list doesn't do the Kinks justice. For one, "You Really Got Me" should have made the list. I don't care how awful the album was. Without it, there's no metal; and entire genre disappears if a teenager hadn't figured out three chords in the right order can change the world.

Second, the magazine could have granted favor to one of the band's least appreciated albums -- "Sleepwalker." Title track, great. "Life Goes On" fantastic. "Life on the Road" "Juke Box Music" really good.

- DT

R.J. said...

You're absolutely right. The simple fact is that the Kinks had a huge uphill battle in the States when they were banned.

But, moreover, history shows that the Who and Kinks discovered feedback at approximately the same time. Yes, "My Generation" was important, but "You Really Got Me" was just as important.