A Kinks Review Live!
July 9, 1980
Featuring key paragraphs from these great Tom Smucker Kinks reviews -- "Manhattan Rock O. D.," "Kinks Ordinaire," and "The Fantasy Closes In."
Plus two all-new paragraphs never included before in any review!
Hey , all right! It's great to be reviewing in Riffs again for The Village Voice! (Hooray, yeaaa, hubba-hubba.)
"One can't be the dreamer for everyone else forever, I suppose. And maybe as you get as old as me and Ray are, you take a harder look at the world of rock music if you're locked inside it. Self-expression, apparently, is easier to market than campy posturing ("What does Ray Davies think, believe, and feel?" instead of "What's the new stage show like?") But I'm not a traveling musician, after all. And although I'm interested in their problems, for the stars to focus on themselves means pulling in the net a little. Pulling the fantasy back around the musicians and away from the audience. The Kinks are not the world's greatest boogie band, and Ray Davies isn' t Bruce Springsteen or Jackson Browne. His gift is not in projecting the power of his own personality, but in his playfulness and empathy. And although the new albums are an improvement they can't stand by themselves, as Face to Face and Something Else did long ago."
Thank you, thank you. Now I'd like to do some paragraphs from a real oldie. How many of you out there remember Fusion magazine from 1969? (scattered applause) Rock Critics May Come and Rock Critics May Go BUT ROCK CRITICISM WILL GO ON FOREVER!!!! (YAAAAAAAAAAAAY, HOOOORAAAAY!)
"So when the Kinks came on stage, they didn't just come on stage. Their unknown albums came on stage, their early hits came on, the times I'd listened to them alone when they had really meant something (no bullshit -- "Too Much On My Mind" -- "Waterloo Sunset" -- many other songs) came on stage. Essays by Paul Williams about them came on. All on stage With (as?) the Kinks.
"The Fillmore, of course, is the one place where you can be in such a situation yourself and know that at least half the audience is in it too. That it KNOWS about the other albums, the early hits, the attempt at a comeback. The Fillmore is not a place that will boo Important Groups because it has read the rock papers and understands.
"Which is, of course, finally a problem. Because afterwards when you are leaving the Fillmore you have a funny feeling that you don't know whether or not you enjoyed yourself. Or whether what happened was only Interesting and Important."
(Yeah! Boo! Smucker sure can write! His early stuff seems a little weak now! I don't understand a single word, and neither does my wife!)
"And so I dropped them as a cult group and even included a description of the concert in a generally-disillusioned-with-rock-and-roll article I wrote. It was a terrible thing to do, because if ever a group deserved a cult following it was the Kinks, who soon dropped from sight. I'm sure it had less to do with the times . . . But I was poor and could only afford one cult.
"The ordinary person living in a fantasy is a greatly respected character in Kinks literature . . . On stage the Kinks themselves are these ordinary people-- i.e. drunks --playing at Rock Stars . . . And if the Rock Life is just another pose, like Ordinary Life, within reach of the Kinks, then maybe Rock Life and the Kinks can be within reach of their audience."
Thank you. Well awright! (Applause, applause.)
One for the Road, the Kinks Live contains some nice moments, because the Kinks have written some great songs. But does anybody really need a third live album from them? Maybe if they were using this to recast themselves as root powerpop via their old rave-ups mixed with uptempo new staff, there might be some logic to it. But it isn't even that. Instead we get your average live rock album mix, and worst of all, an audience that sounds as mindless and pre-trained as the ones on Rock Concert.
Ray Davies, evidently, has really turned into the reactionary sourpuss that was peeking out of several of the songs on the last two albums if we are to believe this who-gives-a-shit, even cynical record. As a clever, aging, second-string rock critic and longtime Kinks observer, I'm interested in how the clever, aging second-string Kinks deal with the problems built into their career. Live albums have been used to cover up dry spots for acts before, so maybe down the line somewhere they will snap to again. But no, I am not eagerly awaiting the history-making video portion of this first concert to be recorded and released simultaneously on LP and videotape. Because it has nothing to say. It might be good business, but it's no kind of aesthetics at all. And for the Kinks, that's sort of sad.