Review: Ray Davies - Other People's Lives
Other People's Lives, I'm sad to report, is not that special. It was in the works for years so I expected more of the songs to be more than Ray reading the phone book (as it were). I love Ray and The Kinks, especially their cheesy mid-70s output of stage-oriented rock operas that never had a chance. Ray rhymes well but as a lyricist he's almost the opposite of poetic. He's a descriptive writer long on factual details. Half the songs on Other People's Lives are slow numbers with musicians providing slight backup to Ray, who in essence reads the phone book of Ray Davies-type lyrics.
The cd opens strong with "Things Are Gonna Change", and at first I thought I had the wrong disc because the backing band is kicking a bit-o-ass in a way The Kinks never did. Ray's singing at first also sounded alien. I was reminded heavily of when Fred Shneider hired decent bands to fire up his fascinating (as in a car wreck) cd Just...Fred. The Kinks had the worst drumming, with its plop, plop, plop beat, so it's odd to hear a Ray Davies album with pro-active, sweeping drum patterns. Other People's Lives does have its share of plop, plop, plop, so that may be dictated either by Ray's insistence or singing.
"After The Fall" sounds like a track from Misfits, most closely "Rock & Roll Fantasy". "Next-Door Neighbour" is a nice ditty that sounds like Colin Moulding's music hall contributions to the last two XTC cds. "All She Wrote" and "Creatures Of Little Faith" offer inventive instrumentation, then "Run Away From Time" finds Ray in nice old form. After that though the sameness of Ray's delivery wears thin, a break coming in the rousing "Stand Up Comic".
Back to the music hall, I think Ray Davies arrived decades too late. He was where he was born to be when he appeared on the very first VH1 Storytellers.