Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ray Davies Finally Irons out the Kinks ; the Singer Finds a Fresh Approach to Songwriting on a Solo Record

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ray Davies Finally Irons out the Kinks ; the Singer Finds a Fresh Approach to Songwriting on a Solo Record

Article excerpt

During the course of an hour-long phone interview with 20 journalists, Ray Davies variously refers to what happened Jan. 5, 2004, as "the incident," "the accident," or when he "got injured." He does not recall it as the time when he was shot in the leg pursuing the man who stole his then-girlfriend's purse while they walked along a New Orleans street. Maybe it's just semantics.

For any other artist, such an episode might be a pivotal point for lyric writing. But for Davies, the singer and songwriter of The Kinks, it's neither the focus for the songs of his first "official" solo album, "Other People's Lives" - most of which was written prior to the mugging - nor for a discussion with journalists.

Like much of Davies's four decades worth of material, many of the tunes on the album "were inspired by characters who live probably 100 yards from me," says the resident of North London.

"It's so very localized," says the veteran rocker. "But it also picks up on the ironic facets of English culture. English people are a bit wistful and mundane, and I like people that have little quirks in their lives and [who are] lower-achieving people. I think they're worth writing about.''

Nonetheless, it's fitting that some of the themes of the record deal with the idea of rising above adversity.

The Kinks began with a loud bang in 1964, exploding with the ecstatic, if tortured, vocal and distorted two-chord guitar riff of "You Really Got Me.'' In short order, The Kinks developed into one of Britain's top bands, albeit an under-appreciated one when matched against the Beatles, The Who, or The Rolling Stones. Davies was one of rock's sharpest writers, a man who could be sentimental, self- deprecating, and sarcastic - a lyricist both humanistic and humorous. He could write about something as simple as not being able to afford gasoline ("A Gallon of Gas'') or the lies of politicians and the faults with both capitalism and socialism (the "Preservation" rock opera).

A primary theme on "Other People's Lives'' concerns characters struggling with ennui and inertia.

"There are a lot of issues on this record," says Davies. "It's a lot to do with identity - finding a new identity, as in the person who gets that 'lonesome train' at the end'' of the song "The Getaway (Lonesome Train). …

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