Despite having one of the longest and most prolific careers of any rock ‘n’ roll band, the Kinks remain best known in America for their early hits “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night.” Part of the reason American audiences largely ignored the Kinks was a mysterious ban that prevented the group from performing here for several years in the 1960s. In a way, the ban was the greatest gift America could have given the Kinks. Far away from the influence of be-ins and free love, the Kinks turned their artistic focus inward, and set about exploring what it meant to be British at a time when their nation’s prominence was declining.
The results are displayed in a series of literate, witty, sentimental, and musically ambitious albums that redefined British pop music. The 1967 release Something Else, despite its disarmingly bland title, provides the most dazzling example of the Kinks’ singular vision. An album that seemingly achieves the impossible, Something Else is in turns lush, romantic, sentimental, old-fashioned, sarcastic, hip, and modern.
A celebration of old and new trends in British music, Something Else incorporates bossa nova, dance hall, Mod, and folksy rock sounds in a seamless manner. There is the piano-driven story of the golden schoolboy “David Watts”; the Dylan-influenced tragicomedy “Death of a Clown”; the reflective chamber pop tale of “Two Sisters”; the lounge ambience of “No Return”; the old-time numbers “Harry Rag,” “Tin Soldier Man,” and “End of the Season”; the Mod marriage fable “Situation Vacant”; the grungy rock of “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”; and the sentimental, dreamy pop tunes “Lazy Old Sun,” “Afternoon Tea,” “Funny Face,” and “Waterloo Sunset.” Ray Davies reached the pinnacle of his songwriting career with Something Else, but his brother Dave turned out some of his finest material on this album as well.
As with Blur’s fabulous and very Kink-indebted Parklife (1994), the varied musical styles on Something Else work because of the cohesiveness of the subject matter and the consistently high quality of the songs. Peppered with such memorable characters as the brown-nosing “David Watts,” the bored housewife Priscilla (“Two Sisters”), the interfering mother-in-law (“Situation Vacant”), and the hip, young lovers Terry and Julie (“Waterloo Sunset”), these songs express the hopes and fears of everyday people in an extraordinary way.
Fans of the Britpop movement, particularly Blur devotees, won’t want to bypass Something Else, for this is where the genre was born. Anyone interested in checking out the album should look for the Castle Communications U.K. release. Unlike the skimpy American version, the import contains lots of photographs, informative liner notes, eight bonus tracks, and, most importantly, digitally remastered sound.
// Notes from the Road
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