Monday, November 02, 2009
The Kinks - Muswell Hillbillies.
If you've ever heard this record, you don't need to bother reading this, because you already know. Muswell Hillbillies is, without a doubt in my mind, the pinnacle of Ray Davies' songwriting career, one of the pinnacles of 20th century music, and one of my "desert island"* records. Davies had been working for some time on striking a balance between British and American songwriting traditions. He wears his influences on his sleeve, finding just the right contours of country and rock and roll to fit into jaunty British music hall numbers. Some of the more rocking, big-arrangement numbers sound almost like T. Rex, and others sound like the source material for every good idea Jeff Tweedy ever had. Davies' notoriously dark sense of humor runs rampant throughout, throwing jabs at welfare-state bureaucracy, over-consumption of both alcohol and tea, and girls who are too skinny. If Village Green was the Kinks' response to Sgt. Pepper, then Muswell Hillbillies is the response to anyone who thinks the Kinks were just a Beatles knockoff.
*A "desert island record" is one of those records you mention when someone asks you what records you could bring with you if you were going to be stranded on a desert island and could only bring five albums with.