Monday, February 06, 2006

Brit Papa

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LET US NOW PRAISE RAY DAVIES
Before we get started do yourself a favor: cue up "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks. Ah, don't you feel better already? Music in the left speaker, vocals in the right -- totally old school. That twinkling strum of brotherly guitar and gently piddling snare, those drowsy sha-la-las drifting upwards while the bass line tumbles downwards, and the comforting sentiment that even the shittiest day on Earth ends with a glimpse-of-paradise sunset. That, my friend, is the sound of your father's Brit-pop. They don't make singles like that anymore -- Damon Albarn has long since stopped even trying. Sadly the Gallagher brothers haven't.

As a Modish a young man, back when London was swinging and shagadelic , he authentically articulated the quiet desperation of middle-aged English milquetoasts straight-jacketed in Cardigan sweaters and stuck at the crossroads of fat wives, cold tea and limp biscuits; the fashion slavery of Carnaby Street dandies; the lazy, summery noontides of stoned Victoriana, where nobody is all that concerned that London Bridge is falling down and, hey, what was in that marmalade anyway? He also wrote "Lola" and then married Chrissie Hynde only to have her leave him for, of all people, the lead singer of Simple Minds. The Kinks more or less puttered out at the dawn of MTV, although they've never officially pulled the plug. In a recent BBC interview he all but predicted a future Kinks reunion, assuming his brother Dave continues to recover from a recent debilitating stroke. He also revealed that his brother is now living with him. To appreciate the irony of this, you should know that the Brothers Davies are notorious for being at each other's throats since they were kids, sticking knitting needles into their guitar amps. I say screw the Kinks reunion -- at this point, they'll never do better than evoke the weakest song on Kinks Chronicles One -- give 'em a TV show.

Curiously, as the teenage wasteland of the 60s aged into middle-aged waistbands, Davies' had relatively little to say about it, choosing instead to transmute the story of his youth into books and theater. Now he's finally weighing in: "Is there life after breakfast?" he asks on Other People's Lives, his gem-studded solo debut, out this month on V-2. Well, yes, once you take your pills and drink your tea, he concludes. Cold comfort, I know, but it will happen to you and it will happen to me. In recent years, Davies has become a habitue of the Big Easy. He was strolling through the French Quarter last year when he was shot in the leg after giving chase to the man who had just mugged his girlfriend -- no doubt intending to give the young rapskallion a jolly good rogering. America's always been a secret unrequited love of Davies: he loves her; she shoots him. But if the Kinks hadn't been banned from the U.S. for bad behavior for four years back in the mid 60s, during what was indisputably the band's peak, the Kinks could have been at least as big as John The Baptist.

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