Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Kinks - Give the People What They Want

In 1981, the Kinks entered into their third decade of making music with their twenty-first studio album Give the People What They Want. While the record failed to chart in their native UK, the album did reach number 15 on the US Billboard album charts.

The first side opens with my favorite track from the record, the rousing “Around the Dial”. I love how it opens with the sounds of someone trying to tune in a radio station, getting a lot of static. The lyrics of this rocking number are a call out to a favorite radio deejay that has gone missing (possibly taken off the air for playing prohibited music). I love the driving beats by Mick Avory on this one as well as the dueling guitars by Ray and Dave Davies and Jim Rodford.

The title track “Give the People What They Want” is next. Avory’s drives this anthem along at a breakneck pace. I can easily see this one getting the crowds involved when played live in concert. The lyrics make reference to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 60’s among other things.

The tempo slows down with “Killer’s Eyes”, an off-beat ode to a man who has become famous for being a murderer.

“Predictable” has a rhythm that has a bit of a 60’s feel to it. The lyrics address how lives can get into a rut as we get older, boring and monotonous. I like how the backing chorus is delivered in a flat, emotionless manner to match the lyrics.

The pace picks up slightly as the side closes with “Add It Up”. It has some touches that give the song a little bit of a new wave feel to it. Clearly the Kinks were exploring some of the new sounds to broaden their repertoire for a new decade.

Side two begins with “Destroyer”, the first single released from the album in the US (it reached number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100). The song shares its main riff with an earlier song by the band (1964’s “All Day and All of the Night”) and carries on the storyline from another song by the band as well (1970’s “Lola”). I really like how the band draw these elements in to create this song as it gives it that instant oh-so-familiar feel to it. I also like the chaotic energy that mirrors the paranoia of the song’s lead character. Ian Gibbons has a nice piano solo on this one too.

“Yo-Yo” tells of a man who behaves differently at home from how he is at work, causing some concern from his wife. I like how the song builds in intensity as it goes along.

“Back to Front” has a heavy rocking beat to it. The whole song has pulsing energy as if it is about to explode; that mirrors the tension felt by the subject of the song.

“Art Lover” brings it all back down to a mellow level, though the subject of the song is a man who likes observing the little girls playing in the park. It is almost sad in a way as the man has had his own little girl taken away from him.

“A Little Bit of Abuse” addresses the topic of domestic violence as a woman stays with a man who has been beating her.

The last track on the record “Better Things” was also the first single released in the UK where it went to number 46. In the US, it was the second single and went to number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gibbons opens it with a nice piano riff that the guitars then support well. Ray Davies’ vocals earnestly provide the song’s message of hope.

I was in high school at the time this record was released. Between the album-oriented-rock radio station out of Buffalo and my older brother who was in college, I was well exposed to this record. I like most of the tracks here with a few as true standouts. Give the People What They Want certainly showed that the Kinks still had a bit more mileage left to go in their career; the music industry was not going to count them out just yet.

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